Column: You've Gotta Love Those Experts

Okay, okay…..I know you're going to say Carolina's fast start is due to the fact that they've played 2 teams with a combined record of 0-4.

Charlotte, NC -  Okay, okay…..I know you're going to say Carolina's fast start is due to the fact that they've played 2 teams with a combined record of 0-4. (Honestly, this franchise could not have asked for a better two opening opponents)  This may be true, but these are also two games that the 2001 Carolina Panthers would have found a way to lose, more than likely in the final 2 minutes.  So, here we sit at 2-0 going into next Sunday's game against Minnesota, a game in which we are likely to be six to seven point underdogs, and Panther's fans are riding high on emotion.  Is this newfound optimism warranted? Or should Panther fans guard that optimism with the fact that Carolina hasn't faced a truly potent offense so far this season?

This past Sunday afternoon, against the Detroit Lions, the Panthers displayed a dominance that has brought back many references to the 1996 playoff team.  Whether it was Mike Minter taking an interception to the house, rookie DE Julius Peppers planting his helmet to Mike McMahon's spinal cord, or Rodney Peete taking a shot head-on while delivering a perfect pass to Moose for a touchdown, this team is starting to turn some heads around the league.  It has yet to be seen what the "experts" will find to trash the Panthers about this week, but in weeks one and two, sportswriters from the opposing team's city have found themselves with a plateful of crow on Sunday evening.  Sidenote to opposing teams' writers: Please keep the shots and barbs coming, it seems to be working for us.  End of sidenote.  Everyone seemed to be focusing on the idea of Rodney Peete starting at quarterback, but he effectively silenced those who doubted, at least until Thursday or Friday, when they will start taking shots at him again.  All he did was go out and put up 310 yds passing, one touchdown, and once again, no turnovers.  How many Panthers fans can remember last season when things would start to roll for Carolina, only to have the momentum end with a turnover? ……Okay, you can all put your hands down now.  I remember that as well, and found myself waiting for the same to happen over the past two Sundays, but it never came.  Peete may not be the answer for this team in the long run, but for right now, he is, and that's exactly what the Panthers need.  His calmness and presence in the huddle and the pocket have helped this young team to go out and believe they can score, no matter the situation.  It was reported elsewhere that late in the first half of Sunday's game, that Fox lost his radio communication with Peete on the field and Peete never skipped a beat.  He called his own play that resulted in the Muhammad touchdown right before halftime, and swung the momentum fully in Carolina's favor.  The "experts" have said he couldn't get the job done and Peete is doing an effective job of shutting them up.  I even read somewhere this week that Rodney is their pick to go to the Pro Bowl……quite a turnaround.

As for the defense, all off-season, the biggest concern with the Panthers defense has been that of the secondary.  So far, they seemed to have answered the call by not allowing a play for over 20 yards in the first two games.  Carolina's defensive line is ranked 2nd in the NFC right now with 8 sacks recorded.  Even as bad as the two teams that the Panthers have defeated are, even the "experts" weren't expecting them to win both games.  This team is beginning to turn some heads around the league, and with a win on Sunday in Minnesota, could set Charlotte and the Carolina's on fire.  Be rest assured though, the "experts" will quickly move in to tell you it's still a fluke that the Panthers are undefeated, or that "they" suspected this would happen all along.  Wait, today's Thursday, time to go read the latest "Peete can't play in this league" article.

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