What’s up, people? Hope you’re all having a safe, happy holiday!
Christmas was very good for me, as I spent it with family and friends. My mom cooked a big turkey with all the trimmings. And we played that Kinect Dance Central video game. Have you checked it out? Too fun! Anyway, we gave my visiting family members a special present by beating Tampa Bay on Christmas Eve. That’s four wins in our last five games, so we are finishing strong, and it’s put me in a good mood overall. I just wish we had a shot at the playoffs! Next year!
We do have a chance to finish with a winning record for the second half of the season, which was one of our goals: to just get better and better and go into the new season on a good note. Last game we had several starters hurt, but other guys stepped up to help us win, especially on defense. They gave us good opportunities to put some points on the board. So we’re building team morale and chemistry with the coaching staff. As we’re all meshing together, we’re creating confidence in ourselves. And we’re banking on that newfound confidence carrying through to next season.
You can talk about what ifs, and there were several earlier games that we let slip. Had we won, we’d be in an overall winning position now, maybe looking at the playoffs. But we cannot look back and can only look forward.
Going into the last weekend, the Panthers are first in the NFC, and third overall, in rushing yards with 2,244, or 150 per game. Those are pretty good team numbers. Commentators observe that as our QB Cam Newton becomes more comfortable in his role, we’re getting to expand our running game. [Editor’s note: JStew is now second all-time in rushing yards for the Panthers, and he has also passed the 3,000-yard career rushing mark.]
This season has been a lot different than in my previous three years, learning new schemes, how to be more involved in the passing game. Overall, I’ve been healthy and I feel my contribution has been real good, but there’s always room for improvement. I don’t mind, receiving-rushing-whatever, I just like the ball in my hands and the opportunity to do something with it. Now click “next page” for my playoff thoughts!
Let’s do an early look at the postseason. With Green Bay having the homefield advantage through the playoffs, the road to the championship in our NFC conference may go through Lambeau Field. It can be an intimidating place to play when it’s cold and the wind is blowing, but that’s what you want, the challenge to go up there. They’re the champions until they get knocked off!
One of the individuals I’ll be watching is Baltimore’s excellent running back, Ray Rice, who came out the same year I did, 2008. He can run and catch and comes to play. I’m always rooting for players who came out in my class. Another top running back I admire is the 49ers Frank Gore, who I look up to for his consistent play. He was NFC rushing champ in 2006. In terms of teams, Detroit is in the playoffs for the first time since 1999, and they went winless in 2008, so you’ve got to hand it to them for turning it around and doing something good for the Motor City.
How competitive will the Super Bowl chase be? You know, only the Patriots have been repeat winners since 2000. And in the last six years, three wild-card teams have won the Super Bowl, including Green Bay last season. It shows that teams are ultra competitive and hungry. When your back is against the wall and you don’t have an advantage like home field or a bye week to rest up, maybe you play with a little more purpose and desire. Also, teams with the advantage of home field/bye week may be a little too relaxed and caught off guard by teams that are hungry, ready to win and prepared. There are no guarantees, like they say in that movie Any Given Sunday. And that’s why they play the game.
On another note, I am picking the Ducks to win the Rose Bowl over Wisconsin. And I’m going with LSU for the BCS Championship, although I don’t have a lot of interest in this game, seeing as my Ducks are not in it!
Next year is going to be interesting in a lot of ways. I’m excited for the new year and I’ll be going into the last year of my contract. I intend to make the most out of it, as my immediate future will be on the line. So here’s a New Year’s resolution: “Today make strides with your ambition!” JStew out!
—As told to Ashley Jude Collie