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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Carolina Panthers: Snap Snafu Dooms Dirtybirds

The regular season finale was a fraught with all types of playoff implications for the Carolina Panthers. The win last week assured them of a postseason berth, but a win against the despised Atlanta Falcons would give them no worse than the second seed in the NFC side of the playoffs. And with a bit of good fortune, a shot at the number one overall seed. Well fortune struck for Carolina, but it was not in the form of the Seahawks losing to an inferior opponent.

The last three out of four games, Carolina has struggled on offense. They have averaged 248 yards and 17 points in those three games. While giving up an average of 21.3 points and 348.3 yards in those same three out of four games. This can’t happen in the playoffs. But I digress. The Falcons came to play today and Tony Gonzalez provided them all the motivation they needed to win this one. The Falcons defense looked great for most of the game. And when Carolina did finally break off a big play, DeAngelo Williams again fumbled the ball inside the ten yard line. He was saved by Melvin White who intercepted the next Matt Ryan pass at the Falcons eight yard line and returned it for a score. That got the momentum back in the favor of Carolina.

Cam Newton and the Panthers offense struggled for most of the day. Newton did have his best rushing performance of the year in this one, averaging 12 yards per carry. Cam’s rushing was vital for the limited offensive success we did have. Passing was not sharp today. Cam sailed several passes high to open receivers. And when he did get it to them there were a few drops. Tolbert only touched the ball seven times for some strange reason. He should be pounding the rock. The offense is still a work in progress for this Carolina team

Switching sides of the ball, the Panthers defense had a spectacular day. Nine sacks as a team and Greg Hardy lived up to his nickname, the Kraken, with a legendary game compiling four sacks on the day.  Matt Ryan was hit, knocked down and just abused by the Panthers defensive front throughout most of the day. The dropsies seemed to be contagious as Roddy White from Atlanta had his fair share of drops, five in total I believe. Luke Kuechly had a very pedestrian kind of day, only ten tackles. Despite how well our defense played, it came down to late in the fourth quarter before this one would be decided.

With about a minute left in the game, Ron RIvera decides to punt the ball to Atlanta and trust his defense to hold the one point lead the Panthers precariously established. In the words of Yogi Berra, it was like deja vu all over again. My mind thought back to the game in Atlanta when Hiroki Nakamura was burned by Roddy White and Matt Ryan to win the game in Atlanta last season. And with the way Atlanta was matriculating down the field it looked as though the Falcons may steal the game late from the Panthers. But lady luck smiled on the Panthers today.

On a routine shotgun play Matt Ryan was barking out signals to the offense. The Falcons were in hurry up mode because they had used all their timeouts during the Panthers last offensive series. As Ryan is barking out the snap count, he notices two Panthers defenders creeping up toward the line in anticipation of the snap. Ryan decides to change the play right in the middle of his cadence and the center snaps the ball past Ryan and the Falcons are taken completely out of field goal range. I am sure all Panthers fans along with myself breathed a tremendous sigh of relief. What a hard fought game. Just another in a long season of hard fought games.

Make sure you catch @Cat_Chronicles live web show every Wednesday night at 930 on Google+. Or watch on YouTube after the show airs. It has been a great season and if the playoffs are anything like the regular season, hold on to your hats, it is gonna be a wild ride.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Betting On the Line: Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons

Matchup Summary:  

The Atlanta Falcons host the Carolina Panthers @1 pm in what will be an important divisional matchup.  This games significance varies for the contestants, however. For the (11-4) Panthers, this game has monumental playoff implications.  A win would clinch the NFC South and ensure a #2 playoff seed, a buy week, and a home playoff game for Carolina.  A loss would most likely send the Panthers on the road throughout the playoffs.   For the (4-11) Falcons, the actual stakes are low, but what’s On the Line goes much deeper than the win-loss statistics reveal.  This I-85 rivalry has always been heated, and the comments coming from the Falcon locker room suggest that Atlanta wants to keep it that way.

Currently, oddsmakers seem to be a bit divided on this game, with the line waivering from Carolina -5.5 to -7.  The over/under is sits consistently at 45.5 points.  Keep reading because @Cat_Chronicles and Falcons’ analyst, Allen Strk’s bets are ALL IN!

All Bets Are In:

Tony’s Bet: Atlanta Taking +6.5 Points  (Taking the Under) 

Every week there seems to be a lot On the Line for the Carolina Panthers. Maybe the old coach’s adage “this week’s game is the most important game of the season” isn’t so cliche after all.  It hasn’t been for the Panthers this season anyway.

Right now the line is on the move, which means the money is on the move.  Some oddsmakers opened the spread with the Panthers favored by -7.   This is a big spread for any divisional matchup.  One that I would certainly hesitate that the Panthers could cover, given their anemic offensive performance at home against the Saints.  It looks as if I’m not the only one who thought this was giving the Falcons too many points, because the line has moved to -5.5-6.5.  This might now seem like a lot, but that is the difference between 1 and 2 scores.  I pick the Falcons to cover if the line is any higher than -6.  I’m picking the Panthers to win, but it will not be a blowout.

Look for the Falcons to make every effort to play the spoiler.  Let’s hope the Panthers aren’t looking to the playoffs just yet, but are instead focused on clinching the NFC South, a playoff bye, and a home playoff game.

I’m taking the -6.5 points.  Panthers eek this one out 20-17, well short of the 45.5 o/u.

Joe’s Bet: Falcons Take the Points (-6.5)

The Panthers-Falcons game is likely the strongest rivalry in the NFC South. These teams do not like each other. So as fans of any sport know, when it comes to rivalries, throw everything out of the window.

This rivalry is intense. Going back several years to the Mike Vick era in Atlanta and you can see where the intensity comes from. Mike Vick destroyed the Panthers on more than one occasion. I know I had a strong dislike for Vick even before the whole dog fighting incident. Then the events of last year. In the first matchup Matt Ryan throws a deep pass late in the game over the head of the Panthers secondary to win the game. This was after Ron Rivera decides to punt on a 4th and less than a yard at midfield. Then the comments by Matt Ryan immediately after the game telling the Panthers to please leave the field expeditiously. These things all contribute to the fire that burns in my heart against the Falcons as a Panthers fan. This season has been very different though.

The Falcons were expected to contend this season for the division crown. Well some key injuries decimated the Falcons roster. So now they sit 4-11. The mirror image of the Panthers record. Atlanta would relish the playing the role of spoiler against this Carolina team. As bad as their record is, the Falcons are a talented team. They have extra motivation for beating Carolina in the form of Tony Gonzalez last game. They would like nothing more than to send him out a winner. These things will keep Atlanta motivated and should keep the game close.

I am not a betting man (work too hard for my scratch), but if I was I would pick Atlanta to cover. As good as Carolina is running the ball, and as poor Atlanta is at stopping the run it would seem Carolina will run away with this but for the above mentioned reasons this one stays close.

The Panthers have a lot On the Line in this one. It is imperative they win this game so we have the bye week to get healthy the few players we have dinged up, and we will also get a home playoff game. This year Carolina is 7-1 at home and the sole loss came in week 1 against the favorites to win the Super Bowl. So Carolina has plenty of motivation for winning this game.

I am of the opinion there will be some points put up in this one. The Falcons are really proficient as an offense at home and it will take Carolina scoring up near 30 to win this one. My score prediction is 28-20.

Allen’s Bet: Falcons Taking Points (-6.5) and Under

Steve Smith plays a huge difference maker in my decision here. If he were healthy, I wouldn’t hesitate in picking Carolina to score 30 points and cover the spread. With Smith now ruled out on Sunday, it will be tough for Carolina to create those explosive plays. As bad as Atlanta’s defense may be, Carolina’s depth at wide receiver is pitiful. Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn aren’t receivers you can fully depend on, which is why Cam Newton struggled so much last Sunday against New Orleans. Sure he overthrew a few easy passes, but Newton didn’t have anyone to truly rely on with Greg Olsen being keyed on.

This will be Tony Gonzalez’s last game of his legendary career. He had his way with Luke Kuchley last time and I’m expecting that again, if they put that responsibility solely on him. Kuchley is an excellent linebacker that deserves all the accolades he receives, but he’s not someone you should leave alone in coverage. You can make the argument that Thomas Davis has outplayed him at times this season. Roddy White and Steven Jackson have been coming on strong these past few weeks, which makes their offense much different than the one that Carolina faced in November.

You can expect a 2012 style NFC South battle, where this game won’t end till the late fourth quarter. I’m still picking Carolina because Atlanta can’t stop the run and DeAngelo Williams has played well in recent weeks. They can also lean on Mike Tolbert as well. That should be just enough to win 23-20 and to earn a first round bye.

Atlanta is taking the points and it’ll be slightly under 45.5

Special thanks Allen Strk, Atlanta beat writer for You can follow him @Allen_Strk

Friday, December 27, 2013

I-85 Showdown for the NFC South

Cat Chronicles will be Breaking Down the Box of Carolina's defeat of the New Orleans Saints, look south to the Falcons, and talk playoffs.  As always, we will feature our ICE UP picks of the week and unveil the winning Tweet of the Week.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"Killa" Cam Newton Slays Critics by Leading Carolina Panthers to the Playoffs

There was hype. There were haters. Could Cam Newton be a pro player?

Newton has been a polarizing player from day one. With unprecedented accolades (NJCAA National Champion, BCS Champion, Heisman winner), Cam burst on to the scene as the #1 overall draft pick. This was a highly debated pick, even amongst Panther fans.  Many wondered could his game translate to the NFL? 

The Haters

The doubters questioned Cam’s ability to transition to the pro game, perceiving him as freakish athlete who could potentially play quarterback. They cited the Auburn’s primitive playcalling system and simple offensive scheme. They claimed he wasn’t pro-ready because he hadn’t played under centered. Critics like Mike Lombardi marginalized Newton to a running quarterback alone, stating “he’s looking to run with that big body.” Terry Bradshaw flat out stated he didn’t “like Cam Newton at all,” describing Blaine Gabbert as a more pro ready QB. And ESPN’s Skip Bayless unsurprisingly (that is if you know Skip) cried that Tim Tebow was a more accurate passer than Newton could ever be.
Doubt turned to reluctance when ESPN’s Cris Collinsworth called for Carolina to take Von Miller #1, claiming Newton was too much a risk with too little potential reward. Collinsworth thought at best Newton could only be a Ben Roethlisberger hard to take down game manager.

Then doubt turned to hate when analysts questioned Cam’s football IQ , personal commitment, and maturity.  Charlie Casserly, who has since demonstrated why he is no longer NFL GM, stated he would take “Kevin Kolb over Cam Newton 100 times out of 100 chances."  Yea that’s right Kevin Kolb! He went further though, denigrating Newton’s football IQ exhibited at Auburn as “so simple you can do it in ninth grade.”

Cam’s football IQ was not the only thing under scrutiny.  His past at Florida and the scandals surrounding his alleged six figure recruitment by Mississippi St and Auburn led many to question his maturity.  Former coach Steve Mariucci wanted to know “where is this kid going to be when he gets a paycheck,” and he wasn’t thinking the answer was going to be the Pro Bowl.

Newton’s most scathing pre-draft review came from Pro Football Weekly, claiming: 

Cam defied the critics by going on the most impressive rookie campaign in NFL history. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year award, made the Pro Bowl, and shattered rookie quarterback records in rushing, passing, and rushing TDs. This wasn’t enough for the haters, who critiqued his demeanor, press conferences, and off the field behavior. Newton didn’t seem to do himself any favors publically in the offseason. Stories leaked that many of his peers viewed him as a diva, who failed to show the proper humility and respect for the guys who had been there before, at the Pro Bowl. Other stories surfaced that he had continued to defy the pecking order in the Carolina locker room. The former story appeared to have some validity, but the sources quoted in the story remained anonymous. The Panthers press machine denied the the latter. Overall, it appeared as Cam rubbed some the wrong way. Whether this was simply his personality or some sort of specific slight seems unclear. What probably should have been a non-story continued to plague Newton’s image throughout 2012. The Panthers started out slow the next year. Cam had what many described as a sophomore slump, while new media darlings RGIII and Andrew Luck took center stage. As Carolina struggled, Cam struggled with losing. These struggles came early with in a primetime Thursday night blowout by the New York Giants. Cam’s struggles continued after the game with a miserable press conference that summed up much of his demeanor throughout the season.

The haters ate it up.  Even those who had jumped on Cam’s bandwagon shrunk and started to believe the haters. Hell, it even frustrated me--one of SuperCam’s greatest supporters. There’s just something wrong about a big, beautiful, athletic specimen like Newton sulking and whining.  It was his confident, attitude that was so mesmerizing in the first place--well that and the 250lbs, 4.5s/40yd, and an arm that can throw a football through a piece of plywood. 

 It was clear Cam was adjusting.  All through this, his on the field play never suggested he couldn’t make it or even become great one day.  He was young.  He was accustomed to success, and he had always been the best athlete on the field.  Winning had always come easy, but it was now allusive. Simply put, Cam was developing.  If development wasn’t required, they wouldn’t make rookies buy doughnuts or carry pads in training camp.

This is what the  mainstream media sharks craved, and Cam’s sideline and press conference performances were the proverbial blood in the water. The media machine doesn’t want to wait for athletes to develop into greatness.  Wait? Hell no, they need to sell the story now.  That’s why they jumped ship for the newest flavor of the week and used Cam as a side story to exploit when they needed a little filler. (The same thing is going on right now in Washington with RGIII, who just last year everyone praised for his maturity.)

The Believers

Cam has always had his supporters though. Many of us knew something special was developing in Carolina. In 2012, Trent Dilfer stated that Cam “is going to change football.” The great Bo Jackson argued that Cam was one of the “two baddest men in the NFL,” and “the rest of the NFL {just didn’t} know it yet.” Many of us tauted that Cam could possibly become the greatest NFL player ever. I still stand by that!

What Cam didn’t prove in his stupefying rookie season and respectable sophomore campaign, he has this season.  Cam’s 2013 stats may not be as absurd as those of the past, but Carolina is winning and in the playoffs.  While this is not solely because of Cam’s play, it certainly is not in spite of his play.  He has not been a weakness to the 2013 Panthers.  Instead, he has defied every criticism levied at him in the past and played a central role in Carolina’s success.  

Haters said he could put up big stats, but couldn’t win.  Cam led the Panthers to a 11-4 season, including a franchise record 8 game winning streak. He was instrumental in beating the San Francisco 49ers in Candlestick, the Patriots the following week on MNF, and the New Orleans Saints to take the divisional lead.  A win on Sunday will lock up the division and gain the Panthers their first playoff appearance since 2008.

Haters said he crumbled under pressure.  Cam led 4th quarter game winning drives against the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints.  

Haters said he couldn’t be a pocket passer.  Cam has completed 62% of his passes, thrown 22 TDs with only 12 INTs. 

Haters said he was immature and a liability. He has matured significantly and continues to develop into an important team leader both through action and attitude. Cam Newton has simply not been the liability that the critics claimed he would be.  Instead, he has been an essential leader both on and off the field. Those critics still fail to mention Cam’s much improved press conferences that put the team first and always acknowledge Carolina’s defensive identity. 

It’s at this moment Cam’ron’s Purple Haze album finally makes sense.  As he said, “see the problem is” Cam “ain't goin nowhere.”  Killa Cam is here to stay. He has arrived, forcing the haters to even acknowledge it! 

Killa Cam....Killa Cam, Cam, Cam

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tweet of the Week

 Cat Chronicles is a website created by fans, for fans, who are dedicated to following the Carolina Panthers.  The @Cat_Chronicles brand originated from fan discussion and input, so it is our mission to feature Panther fans because without you, football is just a kids game.  Each week, we will select our favorite tweets related to the Carolina Panthers and fans will vote for Cat Chronicle's Tweet of the Week!  Cast your vote now;  It’s up to you!

Joe’s Pick:

Who Dat at 11-4? That’s right. It’s the Carolina Panthers. What a great game. Both teams left it all out on the field. Saints fans felt because of their dominating win in New Orleans, the same would happen in Charlotte. Well the Panthers showed the Saints who the better team really is. Even with the worst offensive performance of the season and the emotional leader of this offensive unit out, Carolina was able to mount a clutch late game drive.

I selected this tweet for Tweet of the Week because it puts the facts in language any Saints fan can understand, Who Dat at 11-4? Ain’t the Saints! #KeepPounding #PanthersNation

Vote for my tweet selection to serve as a reminder to Saints fans and to all the NFL, as to who the team to beat in the NFC is, the Carolina Panthers.

Tony’s Pick:

#PantherNation is channeling the Dude today after yesterday’s big win! The hard fought and well deserved victory over the Saints has monumental playoff implications for the Carolina Panthers.  Had the Panthers lost this game and still moved on to the playoffs, they would have most likely had to go on the road through Philadelphia and then to New Orleans.  No Panthers fan wants to go back to New Orleans anytime soon and in the immortal words of the Dude, “Come on, man. I had a rough night and I hate the f*ckin' Eagles, man!”

 Instead, this victory made us divisional leaders (most likely champs) and catapulted the Carolina Panthers to a #2 playoff seed.  This also means that the road to the Super Bowl will have to go through the Queen City.  Perhaps just as consequential, the Panthers will get a bye, giving the team some much needed healing time.  The injury to Steve Smith hurts and Charles “Big $$” Johnson could use a little rest for that knee.

I think what I like most about this tweet though is that #PantherNation needed this season.  Along with our defense, the fanbases pride has suffered some hits over the last five years.  But it’s all good folks--now we are the one laying the hits!

Who's Tweet Reigns Supreme?

Honorable Mentions

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Carolina Panthers: Cardiac Cats Late Game Comeback

What a fantastic finish to a hard fought game! This has the makings of a magical type of season for Carolina. This team has earned its stripes this year in pulling out some late game heroics. It seems when the chips are down and the team’s back is against the wall, the Panthers are at their very best. It is a rare quality in a team to become so focused and determined when facing tough situations late in games. There are several players on this team that possess the “clutch” gene, and it seems most greatly expressed in quarterback Cam Newton. For all the late game heroics, it is the defense that deserves credit for this win.

I was one of those who thought this game would end with at least forty five points scored in it. If you would have told me before this game started the final score would have been 17-13, I would not have believed you. The defenses for the teams really stole the spotlight and yardage was at a premium in this contest. I can’t give enough credit to the defense for their effort in this game. Truly the entire defensive unit should get MVP of the game. Well them and punter Brad Nortman, what a great game he had.

If today’s effort from linebacker Luke Kuechly did not earn him a Pro Bowl nod, then there is not anyone who deserves to go. 24 tackles and an interception would make for a good 3 game total for some players, but for the Panthers “Clark Kent”, it is just another day at the office. Luke is firmly establishing himself as the premiere middle linebacker in the NFL. The Panthers are fortunate to have another dynamic playmaker besides Luke Kuechly as part of their linebacking corps.

Thomas Davis is having a career year. He has been the unfortunate victim of three consecutive ACL injuries that have forced him to miss the better part of three seasons. He played well last season, but this year he is proving to the entire NFL he is a Pro Bowl caliber talent. He seems faster to me now than before his injury. 14 tackles and an interception is usually worthy of defensive MVP for a game, however despite the effort by Davis he was bested by 10 tackles. Nevertheless, Thomas Davis is having a fantastic year.

Highlighting these two players is easy because of their stat lines. This win though took a total team effort. The entire defense is deserving of praise because they showed such resiliency and determination. This is just my immediate take on this game so look for a more thorough breakdown later in the week.

Monday look for the Monday minute from Tony Dunn and myself.

This week’s Cat Chronicles episode will be Thursday night at 930 due to the Christmas holiday.

Follow us @Cat_Chronicles      

Saturday, December 21, 2013

On the Line--NFC South Division Championship

Two 10-4 juggernauts meet Sunday at Bank of America Stadium to decide the NFC South division champion.  The Carolina Panthers host the New Orlean Saints in what looks to be a match between two titans.  The high powered Saints’ offense will try to take their game outdoors and topple Carolina’s league leading defense.  There is clearly a lot On the Line for both teams.  The winner of this game will most likely become the #2 playoff seed, winning both a bye and home playoff game.  This is like having an NFC South Championship game.  

Although New Orleans soundly defeated Carolina two weeks ago, the betting lines indicate that it will a close one.  Currently, the Panthers are -3 point favorites with several oddsmakers.  Keep reading because our bets are ALL IN!

All Bets In:

Tony’s Bet: Carolina Giving -3 points
Traditionally, Vegas allots 3 points for home field advantage--making this game a pick’em. Carolina’s odds advantage may derive from more than just the home field, however.  Oddsmakers appear suspicious of the beat-down New Orleans put on Carolina two weeks ago.  The divisional and playoff stakes look to weigh heavily on this betting line. The Saints have struggled mightily on the road this season, exemplified by their two recent road embarrassments in Seattle and St. Louis.  Both were in domes, so it appears to be less of a home field thing and more of a on the road thing.  New Orleans will be venturing into a den filled with wounded Panthers with their backs to the wall.  Brees will simply not be as safe as he was in New Orleans.

This close line also suggests that both teams will come to play.  I’m guessing that it will come down to each team’s weaknesses, rather than their strengths.  The Panthers defense will hope to recover a little dignity and the Saints offense will do its best to package a road victory.  This game’s storyline will be about the Panthers offense and the Saints defense.  The Panthers offense has been on the brink of breaking out several times this season and the Saints defense, while much improved under Rob Ryan, can be broken.  Look for Cam to have a breakout game behind a powerful running attack led by Deangelo Williams.  We need LaFell to play bigger and Ginn to catch a deep ball.  Mike Shula will open this offense up and make sure that we get this victory!

Carolina’s offense will win this one putting up over 30 points.  (31-26 Panthers)

Joe’s Bet: Carolina Giving -3 points

The game of the day Sunday will take place early as the Saints come marching into Bank of America Stadium. This game is a rematch of one which took place two weeks ago. In that contest the Saints outplayed the Panthers on a grand scale--but that game was played where the Saints are almost unbeatable, the Mercedes Benz Superdome. This Saints team is completely different when they travel away from the comfortable fast track of their home turf. The Saints away record this season makes this clear. The Saints are 3-4 on the road, and their 3 wins are by a combined 14 points.

The Panthers have only one loss at home this year, which came in week 1 against the Seahawks.  Even this was a game Carolina could/should have won (late 4th quarter fumble on the Seattle 8 yard line cost the Panthers the game).  

On Sunday in this game the Panthers need to lay it all On the Line.

Panthers are 3 point favorites, which translates to both teams being even and Carolina is only favored because they are the home team. I beg to differ. Yes the Saints blew the doors off Carolina two weeks ago, but the Panthers are looking for payback. I have a feeling this game will not be as close as many think. I believe Carolina wants this division title and they know the first step will be winning this game versus the Saints.

Panthers win this game, 31-13.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Disruptive D Key to Carolina Panthers Victory

This is a special piece on Cat Chronicles.  Long-time friend of the site, +Ken Dye, was nice enough to write a guest piece for +Cat Chronicles because of the gravity of this matchup.  Give Ken a big-time Cat Chronicles welcome....share it with your friends....and GO PANTHERS!

When you think of the New Orleans Saints, you think of Drew Brees and passing offense. When you think of the Carolina Panthers, you think of stifling defense...and possibly Cam Newton as well.

While it’s true the Saints’ defense has become sneaky-good, they don’t play as well on the road as they do at home and I’m taking a look more at the Saints’ offense/Panthers’ defense in this matchup. They’re the strengths of both teams, in fact.

Here we are...a day away from the most important football game for the Carolina Panthers in YEARS. If they lose, they can't win the division. If they win, depending on the outcomes of the final game in week 17, they could win the NFC South. However, it all starts Sunday when the Saints come marching in.

The Saints destroyed the Panthers at the Superdome, but that's sort of the same thing as losing at Seattle - those two teams have the best home field advantage in the entire NFL. Drew Brees has an aura about him when he plays at home.

Last week, however, his aura got tarnished - on the road - against a surging St. Louis Rams team. For whatever reason, the Brees doesn't play well against the Rams, and the Rams are hardly a recent NFL powerhouse of a team, but the Panthers have some of the same strengths as the Rams - namely, a formidable defensive line.

Panthers ends Greg "The Krakken" Hardy and Charles Johnson are as good a pair of DEs as you'll find anywhere these days and Hardy is going up against rookie LT Terron Armstead, who is getting his first start as a Saint.

Armstead is that kid from Arkansas-Pine Bluff that was such a fast riser from his athletic NFL Combine stats - 6'5" 306, 4.71 40-yard dash. Similar to Lane Johnson's numbers, but Armstead was drafted a bit lower - 76th overall I think it was - because of that small school question.

That was partially answered last week against the Rams, at least in the short term. The athletic young man isn't prepared to be an NFL starter just yet, but is pressed into service due to injuries.

It certainly won't help him to face one of the NFL's top sack artists who has a lot of tools in his toolbox. Hardy can speed rush, set up and execute the inside rush, and bull rush. It's that bull rush that Armstead is weakest at stopping.

What does all this mean?

Well, the Saints have lost 4 of their last 5 road games and Brees goes from Cam's "Superman" in the SuperDOME to a relatively powerless Clark Kent on the road, to use Panthers' fan parlance.

It also means the Carolina Panthers have a real good shot at winning this time around, playing at Bank of America Stadium. Only Peyton Manning has a better QBR in home games than does Newton this year as Cam has matured into a QB who takes what's there and rarely throws into tight coverage anymore.

But specifically, how do you slow down the Saints' offense?

Normally, it's pressure, and that's certainly the case here as with anyone. When a QB starts getting hit, they'll get the "happy feet" or start scrambling too early, but Brees' pocket presence should keep him from bailing too early.

 I think the solution is to play solid press-man coverage. The Panthers tried this in the Superdome, but were largely unsuccessful. Ron Rivera will make sure the defensive backs learn from their mistakes and should do a much better job because of it and the fact they're playing at home with more confidence this time around.

The Panthers MUST win out to win the division, and a #2 seed lock is way better than a probable 6th seed with a loss to the Saints. They'd still have to win on the road in Atlanta, which isn't easy even in a down year for the Falcons, but first things first.

Keys to Victory by Panthers' D:

1) Since Drew Brees gets rid of the ball quickly, That "A"-gap blitz that Sean McDermott sometimes dials up as the Panthers' Defensive Coordinator needs to be used a bit if Carolina rookies Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short (or the interior rotation of players including Colin Cole and D'Wan Edwards) can't get immediate pressure collapsing the pocket in Brees' face. Collapsing the interior of the pocket is a highly under-rated thing. It means a QB can't step into his throws, he can't step up to avoid the ends being pushed around behind him that can still paw at him, and overall is psychologically negative for any QB to experience.

2) The Saints offense uses a lot of timing very much like that of the Broncos and Patriots. If the receivers can get jammed and/or re-routed at the snap, it throws everything off from that point forward. That's when you'll see Brees missing on passes or dumping off to Darren Sproles, who is dangerous enough in his own right. Otherwise, if Brees throws it to the right spot and ON time, but if the receiver isn't there to catch it....

3) You're not going to fool Drew Brees with "disguised" defense. He's been there, seen that, even got the movie version every week in film study. What you're doing when you "disguise" defenses is you're trying to screw up the blocking scheme (fooling a lineman) so that a defender gets an open rush to Brees. Even Drew Brees isn't fast enough to make a play if a defender is coming at him unblocked and the Panthers do use “overload” blitzes in their scheme.

4) The Saints have too many weapons to focus on any one guy. Darren Sproles. Jimmy Graham. Marques Colston. Rookie WR Kenny Stills has speed to burn. Sure tackling is the way to slow the offense if Brees gets time to throw, and he will have time some plays no matter how well the defense is doing their job. This leads me to my last point:

5) HIT DREW BREES. NO QB likes being hit, period, END OF STORY! If the Panthers can hit him early and often - a few times at least - it plants that seed of doubt...

"Will my rookie left tackle blow his assignment/get fooled?"

"Is the line going to hold or am I going to have to watch first for unblocked bad guys?"

"My wife is really going to hate it if I get my spine ripped out and have it shown to me on national television."

What have you.

Wrapping it up, the defensive backs HAVE to do a better job in press and/or in press-bail coverage. What the Carolina secondary lacks in cover skills, they can make up for in being disruptive on the outside against a timing offense like New Orleans has.

Greg Hardy needs a big day vs. the rookie Armstead to make Brees keep thinking about him rather than his options downfield, and perhaps start looking at his hot receiver as his FIRST option. Carolina does a good job tackling receivers in the open field, generally speaking, and can force New Orleans to get their yardage in bits and pieces instead of the chunks they got in the Superdome match-up.

Collapsing the pocket inside is perhaps the single most effective way of disrupting Brees' pass plays without actually notching up a lot of sacks. It will make him less accurate (he can't get MORE accurate) and should increase the chances of ball-hawking safety Mike Mitchell to get his paws on a ball for a turnover or ten. Well...maybe two.

Lastly, the crowd really needs to get involved with generating noise. I was at the Jets' game last week, and the crowd did a pretty good job raising the to speak as BoA Stadium is open-air...especially on 3rd downs when the Jets were on offense. They need to take 'er up a couple of notches and really get into the huddle and line of scrimmage.

Sometimes all it takes is for one WR on the outside being unable to hear an audible for a game-changing turnover to occur. One single play could mean the difference in a win or a loss on Sunday. BoA Stadium isn't in on the seemingly continuous contest between fans at CenturyLink in Seattle, Mile High in Denver, or Arrowhead in Kansas City with the decibel meter, but if the fans' hearts and lungs are with the team, they could really help make a difference.

Carolina needs to bring their own "twelfth man."

Carolina 27, New Orleans 24

By: +Ken Dye 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Carolina Panthers: Week 16 vs Saints- Round II (Repeat or Redemption)?

Well Carolina fans it boils down to this, win out and we are the NFC South champs. What a far cry this is from when we were a 1-3 team still in search of an identity. Now we are among the top teams in the league.

The New Orleans Saints come to the Queen City this week and Carolina has a chance to exact some revenge for the humiliating loss suffered in New Orleans. That game exposed some areas of concern for this Panthers defense. This week we have the opportunity to put those concerns to rest.

Carolina has been very successful at getting to the quarterback with just their front four lineman for most of this season. The Saints were able to nullify the Panthers pass rush, allowing Drew Brees time to dissect the Panthers secondary. This cannot happen on Sunday, pressuring Brees has to be the number one priority. We need the best game of the season to this point from our defensive line.

In the Superdome our secondary made the Saints receivers look like Pro Bowlers. It was discouraging to see how open the they were and the problem was compounded by the poor tackling that took place once the receivers caught the ball. Those some mistakes can’t happen again. The defense is going to have to take some chances and bring extra heat to get Brees out of his comfort zone in the pocket. This will put our defensive backs in a precarious position, having to cover man to man. Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott must not be afraid to take chances though. This Saints team is not the same on grass as it is on the fast surface they play on in the Superdome.

Carolina’s offense will have to do something it was not able to do until late in the game versus New Orleans two weeks ago. The offense will have to convert long drives into touchdowns. Having to settle for field goals will not be enough to win the game against New Orleans. Their team is much too talented to give any room to Brees and company. We saw how quickly things can go sideways when playing this caliber of team.

Running the ball and converting all opportunities (third downs, fourth downs, red zone and goal to go) will all be necessary in winning the time of possession battle. Keeping Brees on the sideline will negate the potency of this Saints offense. Carolina’s offensive line will have to block well in this game. In the first meeting, the Panthers offensive line did not do a good job of keeping Cam Newton comfortable in the pocket. The Saints defense harassed Cam and he was not able to get the offense into the endzone until it was too late.

The two most recent losses taken by the Saints have laid out a blueprint of what it will take to beat New Orleans. The Panthers coaching staff knows what it has with the talent on this Carolina team. There is no way we should have been embarrassed like we were in the Superdome, and this game will give the Panthers a chance for redemption. So what will it be Carolina, repeat of two weeks ago, or will it be redemption and the NFC South crown?

In the words of our very good friend Bigg Q, from @TeamBoydTV, 
just go get ‘em.

Follow us on Twitter @Cat_Chronicles

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cat Chronicles Live Broadcast: Panthers Soar Past Jets & Look to the Heavens for the Saints!

This week the guys review the win against the Jets, look towards the Saints, discuss playoff implications, and as always feature the Tweet of the Week and the Ice Up picks.  This week we are also bringing back our favorite guest, +Javares Boyd  from +TeamBoydTV Turbo to let us know where we went wrong with the Saints two weeks ago and what we can do to get a W in BoA.  Show starts @9:30! Be there!

Cat Chronicles-Tweet of the Week

Tweet of the Week

Cat Chronicles is a website created by fans, for fans, who are dedicated to following the Carolina Panthers.  The @Cat_Chronicles brand originated from fan discussion and input, so it is our mission to feature Panther fans because without you, football is just a kids game.  Each week, we will select our favorite tweets related to the Carolina Panthers and fans will vote for Cat Chronicle's Tweet of the Week!  Cast your vote now;  It’s up to you!

Joe’s Pick:

This is funny because Geno Smith did not have a career day versus the Panthers defense, but it does bring to light how our defense is not as good as we want it to be. Geno did play well though; his numbers don’t look impressive but he showed guts and some leadership qualities that will be vital for this Jets franchise to nurture and develop.

The Panthers defense looked vulnerable against this Jets offense and frankly that frightens me. This is the second game this season we have played poorly against a rookie quarterback. EJ Manuel had a very good game against this Panthers team back in week 2. The defense has to step up if we are to make a deep playoff run. If we give up 20 points to the Jets what is a team like Seattle going to do to us?

Tony’s Pick

Generally, we reserve the TofW for fans.  Mike Mitchell has been a favorite in the Carolina’s this season, and his thoughts strike at what so many fans are echoing with “Panthers control their destiny” comments--so I’m going to bend the rules a bit.

Mike  Mitchell’s tweet has become Carolina proverb.  The real awesome part about this is that Mitchell stated this two weeks ago. Let’s just say the proverb has become more proverbial since then.

The Panthers bounced back last week against the Jets after a beatdown by the Saints.  They also revived their chances for a division title.  The Saints are coming to the Carolina’s and we get to see who is the fittest.  Even Ron Rivera has acknowledged the magnitude of this week’s matchup against the Saints, stating “It's about as big as it gets."  The Panthers control their destiny.  It is truly survival of the fittest that will determine the NFC South and Carolina’s playoff picture.  Props to Mitchell for the Darwinism--a  little testament to that Ohio State Buckeye education.  

Vote for Mitchell’s tweet….it is do or die this week #PantherNation and make sure that 12th man shows up Sunday in BoA.

Who's Tweet is Supreme?

Honorable Mentions

Who's Tweet is Supreme?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Prowling through the Valley

This is something I wrote after the 0-2 start for a contest on  The question was: what do the Panthers need to do to get to the Super Bowl.  At that point in the season, a lot would have been an adequate answer.  Man, how things can change.  VINDICATION!

Prowling through the Valley

After opening the season 0-2, it looks as it will be easier for a “camel to go through the eye of a needle” than it will be for the Panthers to make the Super Bowl.  As an outraged fan base stands outside Panthers’ facilities in the battlefields of social media, armed with pitchforks demanding Ron Rivera’s head, what if anything can the Panthers do to be on MetLife field in February rather than on their couches?

There is one person that “must walk” the Panthers “through the valley of the shadow of death,” out of the NFC South, through the playoffs (on the road for sure), and out of the tunnel onto the the 2013-14 promised land (Super Bowl XLVIII )--Ron Rivera.

That’s right Ron “Coolio” Rivera!

The media never considered Carolina contenders prior to the 0-2 start, the most dedicated fans have trouble comprehending the thought of making the playoffs, let alone a Super Bowl, and most would think that the players themselves are “saying prayers in the street lights.”

For 24 hours, ESPN has continually looped the graphic that 0-2 teams have a 12% chance of making the playoffs.  What then are the odds of an 0-2 team winning the Super Bowl?  Oh yea, if they made it after this, you know we would settle only for victory!

Rivera must keep his cool, channel 1985 Chicago Bears’ toughness, and focus his team on the fact that three 0-2 teams have done it: the 1993 Dallas Cowboys, the 2001 New England Patriots and, that’s right, the 2007 New York Giants!

This weekend, at home, Rivera needs to lead the battle worn Panthers to a statement victory against the last team who rebounded to Super Bowl victory after such an abysmal start--the also 0-2 Giants. Giants fans are praying for the same.

The defense will have to get mean, the offense will have to play clean, and Ron “Coolio Rivera” must go for broke!  This all or nothing showing on Sunday could just win the Panther faithful back long enough for the Cats to lick their wounds in the bye, pounce on the Redbirds, maul the Viking warrior Peterson, and feast on Ram before defending their home hunting grounds of the South.  If the Panthers could surprise injured Patriots in Monday moonlight, they could run through the South, up I-95, and into MetLife Stadium.

How amazing would it be to witness the beginning of an unprecedented run this Sunday that ended in Panther fans demanding Rivera lead the Cats in the Panther Super Bowl Shuffle. At the end of the video he would sound bite, “I didn’t make the last shuffle, so I made my own!”