I gave them their proper due in this week's NFL Power Rankings but I thought the Carolina Panthers deserved a little more respect from me, since I haven't been giving them much lately.
I admit, I have been down on the Panthers all season. Jake Delhomme looked atrocious at times earlier in the year and they weren't beating anyone special. But they were winning, which is the ultimate mark of success in the NFL. I still had questions, though. When they face a tough team, what will happen? Will they be able to run all over a tough defense?
My questions were answered Monday night when the Panthers thumped the Bucs, rushing for over 300 yards against one of the tougher defenses in the NFL. Granted, the win was mostly because of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but Tampa had to know a steady dose of the run was coming, and they still couldn't stop it.
If the running game is there, this team can beat any in the NFL. It's when the game is on the shoulders of Jake Delhomme that I'm still not sure about. Either way, the Panthers have proven to be a much stronger team than I thought. That Giants-Panthers matchup in two weeks will be about as big as they come, not only for home-field advantage but to see who really is the beast of the NFC.