Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas
First, a special thanks to Knuckleheads Sports Bar & Grill in Metairie, La., where the NFC South blog has set up shop to watch the game between the Panthers and Cardinals (the grilled chicken sandwich was outstanding and the service is great). While everyone else here is watching the Packers and Vikings, they’ve kindly left one television with Arizona and Carolina for me.
Now, on to some observations from Carolina’s impressive first half:
When did the Panthers suddenly return to being the Panthers? I mean, they look like the team that went 12-4 last year. Not the team that lost to Buffalo at home last week or the team that came into today at 2-4. It seems like a stunning turnaround, but it really shouldn’t.
The Panthers have tons of talent and it appears John Fox has suddenly remembered the formula that’s brought him a lot of success through the years. He’s gone back to his basics -- running the ball on offense, playing aggressive defense and dropping in a long pass to Steve Smith every now and then.
It’s kind of amazing how good beleaguered quarterback Jake Delhomme can look when all those other things are working. Julius Peppers is playing like a dominant defensive end and linebacker Thomas Davis continues to have a huge year.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are running like last year. I don’t want to get carried away and say all is well with the Panthers because this team has struggled all season and the problems could resurface.
But let’s just say the Panthers have found themselves again. Yeah, they’ve got a big hole to dig out of and it’s probably going to be impossible to climb past New Orleans in the NFC South race. But a playoff berth is possible.
If the Panthers play like they have in the first half, anything is possible.