Almost everybody I know is at least thinking about going to the Carolina-New England game tonight. Some have tickets, some don't. Some will try to pick one up cheap from a seller and some will simply hang out and soak up the atmosphere, and the sweat, and then watch the game in a bar.
How do you not go? The game is Carolina's exhibition home opener, and the opponent is New England, and the Patriots are as close to a dynasty as the NFL gets.
It's a chance to see rookies such as Jon Beason and Ryne Robinson, both of whom have been excellent.
It's a chance to pick a favorite in the Jake Delhomme-David Carr quarterback battle. The Panthers already have made their pick, of course -- it's Jake.
Some other things to look for: DeShaun Foster looks better than he did in the preseason of '06, faster and stronger. I swear that Foster, who is 27, is capable of rushing for 1,000 yards. And I haven't said that since last August.
When the season begins, I think Keary Colbert will start opposite Steve Smith at wide receiver. Watch him tonight, and see if you agree.
Watch Dan Morgan, one of the three best players on this team. I was suprised he announced he would start. I figured he would want to surprise New England. Wonder if they'll test him right away?
Tonight is as close to a dress rehearsal as the preseason gets. This is an opportunity to see what the starters have, and then watch the reserves who are desperately scrambling to find a place on the roster and in the league.
It's also an opportunity to see the fans you hung out with last season and the players you cheered, as difficult as they occasionally made it.
Because it's the NFL. It's that simple.