If the Carolina Panthers beat the New York Jets on Sunday at 4:05 p.m., life returns to normal. The 31-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints fades into the distance. Another Saints game looms, but this time at home. The Panthers would be 10-4 and sitting pretty in the NFC playoff race, dancing much like Steve Smith is in the above picture.
But this is a game the Panthers can't afford to lose. And shouldn't lose. Although the Jets have won some big games this season, the fact remains they are 1-5 on the road and have a rookie quarterback in Geno Smith who is tied for the NFL lead with 20 interceptions. If you can't beat a team like that at home, you probably don't deserve a playoff berth.
-- If you are watching the game on television Sunday, remember that it will be found on CBS (WBTV in Charlotte) and not on the usual Fox outlets. The longtime NFL rule holds that when there is an inter-conference game like this one, the visiting team holds sway in terms of who televises it. CBS does AFC games and Fox does NFC games, so that's why the visiting Jets have placed this game on CBS with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf as the announcers.
-- Over-under on how many Rex Ryan shots we get during the telecast? I put the number at 25.
-- I have heard from a number of people who have had difficulty finding my new Panther book -- "100 Things Panthers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" -- because of temporary sellouts. Amazon.com, for instance, for much of this week had the book labeled as not being available for "1 to 3 months" due to back-orders.
There are now signed copies of the Panther book available at Blis Uptown, a gift shop in Charlotte, in Founders Hall as well as at Barnes and Noble in Birkdale Village. And if you live in the Gastonia area, I will be signing books and speaking on Saturday, Dec.21st, at 2 p.m. at the main Gastonia library (1555 Garrison Blvd).
-- A number of folks have emailed me after my note last week about me wanting to hear from fans who have received a football directly from Cam Newton after a touchdown for a story coming up. However, I would still like to hear from others, too. Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are one of those people or know somebody who is.
-- Prediction stuff: I overestimated the Panthers last week and picked them to upset New Orleans on the road -- an unwise choice. That dropped my seasonal record to 9-4 -- the same as Carolina, although I have not picked the Panthers to win every week. My pick this week: Carolina 23, New York Jets 13.