Carolina's Jake Delhomme completed four of his first five passes for 93 yards. Denver's Jay Cutler hit nine of his first 12 for 93. Neither has been sacked. I'll update this when the defenses arrive.
Bodog has released its latest odds.
The New York Giants still are the favorite to win the Super Bowl at 9-4. Next are Pittsburgh and Tennessee at 13-2. Then come the Panthers. The odds against Carolina winning are 9-1.
Other notable teams include: Indianapolis at 10-1, Dallas 13-1, Tampa Bay 22-1, Denver 26-1, Atlanta 45-1 and Houston 5,000-1.
The MVP favorites Kurt Warner and Adrian Peterson, both at 6-5. The first running back after Peterson to crack the MVP list is Carolina's DeAngelo Williams at 30-1. Denver quarterback Jay Cutler, whom the Panthers will go against Sunday, is 15-2.
Bodog lists seven defensive player of the year candidates. None of them play for the Panthers.
I love it when the newspaper teaches me new things. Today it taught me swagger-jack.
Tennessee running back LenDale White says the Panthers are stealing the Smash & Dash moniker with which he came up. White says he and backfield partner Chris Johnson are Smash and Dash, and Carolina's that DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have appropriated the term.
"I've been swacked," LenDale says. "If you guys don't know what that is, that's swagger-jacked, and I can't believe that happened to me, man. Somebody would mess with my whole swag, and that's not cool."
Tell it, LenDale. Because if anybody even thinks about swagger-jacking me, it is on.
Downtown Charlotte tried to swagger-jack me Monday night. After I finished my column on Carolina's victory against Tampa Bay, I waited for former colleague Pat Yasinkskas, now with ESPN. com. In the old days, the writer that finished first would say, "It's a daily." These aren't the old days and the term doesn't work any more. But I said it anyway.
I drove Pat back to the Marriott. We still had 15 minutes until last call, so we hit Champions, Pat still carrying his laptop. Last call already had been given. We ran across the street to Hooters. Same thing.
The Panthers just played one of the great games in team history, downtown is full of fans, and bars are closing early? Is world class one word or two?
So we tried to come up with a proprietor that would appreciate the significance of the evening and his role in it. Connelly's on 5th, I suggested.
Connelly's was perfect. The bar was open, the lights were low, which is how every Irish bar should be, and despite the crowd, the bartender made sure everybody had a drink.
He was professional, the institution was professional and, walking out, I was thrilled to discover my swagger had not been jacked.
Thank you, Connelly's. And thank you, LenDale.
The Charlotte Bobcats have few victories, few fans, no tradition and little to offer in a trade. They aren't going to part with rookie point guard D.J. Augustin. That leaves Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor and Jason Richardson.
And now Richardson is gone. The Bobcats traded him and Jared Dudley to Phoenix this afternoon for Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Sean Singletary.
Richardson was a big-time scorer and athlete. But he also was expendable.
Look. Almost nothing Charlotte has done since it joined the NBA has worked. If Larry Brown believes Bell and Diaw improve the Bobcats, have at it. I love Bell's defense and toughness and Diaw's athleticism.
They were Suns, and the Suns were once the league's most entertaining team. They were the prototype for the way basketball ought to be played. For years, they were up and coming.
But they never quite got there. This season they changed coaches. They slowed down. After all those seasons running in front of the pack, they allowed the pack to catch them.
Bell was less than entralled with the new order. Diaw had ceased to be the leaping, hustling force he was after Phoenix acquired him from Atlanta.
They needed a change and Charlotte needs anything it can get.
I'll miss Richardson, but the Bobcats have other players that can do what he did, albeit not as well.
I'll really miss Dudley. The man is way too unpretentious to play in the NBA. The Suns will love him. What a team needs, he attempst to provide.
Many people -- I can't call them fans -- believe the NBA is about spoiled players who refuse to do the dirty work. They never saw Dudley play.
The Boxing Hall of Fame announced its 2009 inductees Tuesday. The most famous of them is Lennox Lewis. But if you lived in Charlotte in the late 1980s, another name stands out -- Orlando Canizales.
Orlando won the IBF bantamweight (118 pounds) title in the summer of 1988. The man from which he took it is Kelvin Seabrooks.
Seabrooks grew up in Charlotte, became an amateur boxing star here and still lives in town. He is the first Charlottean to win a major boxing title.
He was a big deal when he won the title in 1987. Although as an amateur he was a superior boxer, he made his living as a professional landing big punches. In the fight in which he won the title, he was knocked down three times but kept getting back up and kept pounding his opponent.
Seabrooks was an unlikely champion. At one point he had a record of 13-13, made his living washing dishes and boxed on the side. Then he went to Australia and knocked out a contender. Word got back to the U.S. before he did, and he became a contender.
He won his title long before the Carolina Panthers came to town and months before the Charlotte Hornets played their first game. Seabrooks was a big enough deal that when he defended his title against Canizales in Atlantic City, N.J., 20 years ago Charlotte politicians and businessmen chartered a plane to the fight.
Seabrooks began beautifully in the nationally televised bout but Canizales began to find him with jabs and left hooks. After one stunning Canizales punch, Seabrooks yelled, "Whoooo!" simply to acknowledge the craftmanship behind it.
Late in the fight, the challenger, who is from Laredo, Tex., took over. And as game and as couragous as Seabrooks was, Canizales finally knocked him out in the 15th round.
That night, Kelvin's career began to decline while Canizales' career took off. Orlando would sucessfully defend his title 16 times. He beat Seabrooks again in 1989.
Seabrooks was an exciting fighter, fast and powerful, and he loved his fans as much as they loved him. Even now when he walks down a Charlotte street or steps into a Charlotte restaurant strangers still call him champ.
It's a moniker he will keep for life. He earned it.
I love the anticipation before a big game, the way a city comes alive. It's a cool thing to be part of. So I came down early.
Traffic was civilized moving from south to north on I-77, civilized when I left the freeway, civilized when I pulled onto College St. and civilized even on Stonewall St., which is rarely civilized.
There were few tailgaters at 4:30 p.m., although there were a lot of empty beer bottles on the hill across from Bank of America Stadium.
You know when it really felt special?
If felt special when I walked into the stadium, took the elevator to the press box looked out the window and saw, in big white upper case letters on the scoreboard, MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL.
This is big-time.
Come on down.
Why would anybody think it's all right to go to a restaurant and douse the customers around him with champagne?
Here we are in an economy in which many are struggling. And here's Jeremy Bridges, a reserve offensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers, ordering a bottle of Dom Perignon. And instead of drinking it, he shakes up and allows the liquid to fly through the air and land on the patrons nearby, some of whom undoubtedly are dressed up and celebrating the holidays.
Whether they are dressed up is of no consequence. What do you get out of dumping expensive champagne on strangers? What possible thrill could that confer? Depending on the vintage, the stuff costs more than $100 a bottle retail. It is expensive even before the restaurant mark-up.
Was it simply a message: I have so much money I can afford to throw away stuff most people can't afford to drink?
Bridges did this Saturday, at Villa Antonio Restaurant, two nights before the Panthers would play Tampa Bay. What happened after he sprayed the champagne is conjecture. He has been charged with simple assault and battery and communicating threats and is expected to plead not guity. He and the law and lawyers already have a relationship.
There are things people do that are staggering in their stupidity.
Somebody told me that he didn't think the Panthers had players who got caught doing stupid things.
The Panthers have had several. They tend not to stay long.
When the 2009 season begins, I'd be surprised if Bridges is on the roster.
Peyton Elder emailed this week. He reads the column in which I make my NFL picks and writes that I am funny and that, like me, he bases his NFL picks on instinct. He adds, "In the end I do better than you do. (No offense.)"
He also says he is almost 12.
Peyton wanted to challenge me this week and make a bet. Here's my bet, Peyton. If you pick more games correctly than I do this week I will put your name and the name of your school in next Sunday's NFL column. If I win, well, maybe I will play a small part in convincing you to stay out of the betting business.
One day my younger son, Pete, was a student. The next day he was in Sacramento, Cal., at Casino College. Now he works in Las Vegas. Not sure what there is for a 23-year-old to do in Las Vegas, but he rarely sounds bored. He wasn't interested in football, however. It was the numbers and odds that attracted him. We'd go to the bookstore and I'd tell him to pick something out and he'd choose a treatise on odds. The only numbers in the books I read are on the pages.
Peyton, 11, is a student at Lufkin Road Middle School in Apex and a fan of Carolina and Denver.
Thanks for taking time to email. And good luck, kid.
We both picked San Diego over Oakland Thursday.
His picks today and Monday:
Indianapolis over Cincinnati
Chicago over Jacksonville
Green Bay over Houston
Tennessee over Cleveland
Minnesota over Detroit
Washington over Baltimore
New York Giants over Philadelphia
Atlanta over New Orleans
San Francisco over the New York Jets
Miami over Buffalo
Denver over Kansas City
Arizona over St. Louis
Pittsburgh (Peyton's Lock of the Week) over Dallas
New England over Seattle
Carolina over Tampa Bay
We differ on five games. I have the Jets, Saints, Bills, Ravens and Bucs winning.
Even if we don't want our kids to make their living the same way we do, we're flattered when they try. Reid Flair, the 20-year-old son of Ric, said that as he was growing up he thought about playing professional football, or wrestling in college.
But those were flings. He wanted to do what his father did. He wanted to wrestle professionally. He did Saturday night, making his debut at Vance high school, when he and his brother David, 26, took on the Nasty Boys.
The line inside the school snaked like a W around and down and back around and out the door 30 minutes before the wrestling show was scheduled to begin. In the line were at least 300 fans waiting to buy $20 tickets.
By the time the evening's first wrestler, George South, walked from the locker room into the high school gym, every folding chair at ringside was occupied, except the one with which Sags, one half of the Nasty Boys, would slam over the head of Reid Flair.
There also was little space in the bleachers. South drew a few boos when he said he hated Charlotte. But it wasn't until he said he "hated the Carolina Panthers" that the crowd really became aroused.
As fans waited for South and his opponent, Charlie Dreamer, they posed for pictures with the big-name wrestlers, bought programs and replica championship belts, wrestling action figures and wrestling masks.
I know George South, incidentally. He's a good guy and a respected trainer. But when he gets into the ring, something happens. He was funny and mean Saturday, mostly mean, and dominated young Dreamer, often pulling Dreamer to the mat by grabbing his shoulder length blond hair.
Dreamer hung in, however, somehow summoned strength nobody knew he had and, relying on athleticism and youth, ultimately stopped his veteran opponent.
In the first of the three featured matches the Midnight Express took on the Rock 'n' Roll Express. They brought everything to the match, including one balding head, one crew cut and two mullets. They put their old bodies through old moves. When Midnight's Sweet Stan threw Rock's Robert Gibson over his shoulder, he paused to offer a theatrical groan. Robert is a few pounds heavier than he was in his prime and looks like the big guy, the drummer I think, in Fleetwood Mac.
Later the referee began to count as Sweet Stan left the ring. Sweet Stan told the ref he needed more time.
"I'm 55-years-old, you moron," he said.
The match was entertaining and funny and had fans rushing to ringside to take pictures. In what would become a theme, the good guys -- long live rock 'n' roll -- won.
Next, Richie Steamboat, also known as Ricky Steamboat Jr., took on a guy dressed as a Boy Scout. The guy entered the ring with a Boy Scout shirt, handbook, hat and canteen. Early, as the referee ordered the wrestlers to break, the guy looked as if he was going to hit Steamboat. But he promised the ref he wouldn't and held up one hand. Scout's honor. Alas, he would violate the pact several times.
He was good, too. He was working over Steamboat, son of the legendary Dragon. As he pounded Richie outside the ring, Richie's mom, Bonnie, who held one of her grandchildren, screamed at her son to get up. Many Steamboats sat at ringside, as did many Flairs.
Finally, Richie did get up. As the Boy Scout attacked, Richie slickly pulled down the rope and the Boy Scout tumbled to the floor. Richie is a big guy, but he flew around the ring, off the top rope, off every rope, in dispatching the Boy Scout. Excellent work.
Then came the main event. The Nasty Boys, Sags and Knobs, are pros, former champions, former TV stars, who began the trend of wearing street clothes into the ring. We're not talking khakis. They came to town from Tampa and talked about what Tampa Bay would do to Carolina Monday night. Managing them was Jimmy Hart, the Mouth of the South.
They were joined in the ring by special referee Hulk Hogan, who wore a black and white striped shirt with the sleeves cut off. Fans loved the Hulkster, wearing Hulk T-shirts and wildly cheering every signature move.
Then came the Flairs, Reid and David in trunks and Ric, their manager, in a dark blue suit.
This was cool, every fan trying to get as close as he could to the ring, cameras flashing, many holding up Ric Flair posters and merchandise. Sags challenged Reid Flair to wrestle amateur style, dropping to the floor. Reid had doubts; he's a former amateur standout. Was Sags serious? He was. They engaged, with Reid in the superior position, and Reid quickly overwhelmed Sags with his quickness.
Sags again challenged him, this time with Reid in the inferior position. Reid was still skeptical, and should hae been. When he got down on the mat, Sags kicked him.
Sags and Knobs worked over Reid, pounding, kicking, throwing him outside the ring and, I must say, cheating. Hulk Hogan would be districted by Jimmy Hart or a Flair not in the ring, and the Nasty Boys would take advantage.
Hogan, however, did a fine job, slamming Knobs to the floor when he entered the ring inappropriately.
Sags and Knobs were bad. Sags had the audacity to contend repeatedly that Reid was cheating by grabbing his Nasty Boys jacket.
Sags and Knobs also went to the corner to challenge Flair, who calmly watched with one leg perched on the steps that lead to the ring. They mimicked Flair's signature walk and "woo." Knobs walked to the corner and called Flair out. When Flair began to remove the jacket to his dark blue suit and the Nasty Boys ran away.
As Sags put Reid in a finshing hold, trying to get him to submit, the Mouth of the South yelled through his megaphone, "Give up, Reid!" Give up, Reid!"
But Reid did not. He put on a high-flying move to knock the Nasty Boys to the ground, summoned all the strength he had to reach for the hand of his brother, David, who had stopped wrestling professionally a year ago. David was rested and he worked the Nasty Boys over. When Sags entered the ring, Reid returned. Jimmy Hart and his megaphone jumped in and Hogan knocked him down. Then Hogan invited Ric Flair in.
And this is how it ended. Each Flair boy put each Nasty Boys in a Figure Four Leglock, Ric's famous finishing hold, and Ric put Jimmy Hart into a Figure Four. The Nastys submitted, hanging on each other as they left the ring and struggled to reach the locker room.
It was a cool ending to a cool evening of old-time, good-time wrestling.
On Friday, I talked to Reid and Ric one-on-one.
First I asked Reid what he expected his favorite moment would be.
Walking from the locker room to the ring with his father, he said.
I asked Ric the same question.
"Walking to the ring with my sons," Ric answered.
Tonight's Manny Pacquiao-Oscar De La Hoya fight could get lost in all the college football, college basketball, pro basketball and pro wrestling going on nationally as well as in Charlotte. It shouldn't.
This is an intriguing fight. Manny is generally considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing. Alas, pounds could be his undoing.
Manny began his career at 106 pounds and has never fought at more than 135. Oscar has fought at 160. Tonght they'll fight as welterweights, 147 pounds. Oscar weighed 145 at Friday's weigh-in, Manny 142. By the time they enter the ring, Oscar's body will drift toward it's natural weight, and he will outweigh Manny by at least 10 pounds.
Manny, who is leanly muscled, has put on 36 pounds as an adult. He's not alone. Many of us also have. But we drink mass quantitites of beer.
Oscar is five inches taller. In every way he's the bigger man. But Manny is the better fighter. Because so few people keep up with boxing, and are unlikely to until there's a boxing fantasy league, they know only the big names, and Oscar is a big name, one of the few the sport offers.
But when was the last time you saw De La Hoya, who fights cautiously and only in spurts, look good? When was the last time you saw Pacquiao look anything but good? He is a tremendous offensive fighter, and despite giving away five inches, he will attack. Can he hurt Oscar? That will determine the outcome.
I'm pulling for the little man, who is a national hero in the Philippines, rather than the big man, who is a hero in Hollywood. Unlike De La Hoya's bland and overblown fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., this one will be a thrill, featuring different sizes, styles and, practically, species.
If you want to catch it, it will cost you $54.95 on HBO Pay-Per-View.