Panthers and Bears Are Pleased to Announce Their Importance to the NFC This Year

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These two teams matter. A whole lot, actually. And while not many people would have guessed it -- certainly a Panthers homer or a Bears fan might have mentioned something -- they are going to be hanging around for a while, barring injury.

For the Bears, their defense has to stay healthy. And for the Panthers, Jake Delhomme's arm has to hold up. I know that's a standard, sweeping generalization, but it's true.

Oh, and the new-look Panthers offensive line, which mauled the Bears in the second half Sunday, needs to not get hurt as well. If they can avoid serious injury, Jonathan Stewart is going to be something special. He was an absolute bruiser during the second half Sunday, plowing through Bears defenders en route to two touchdowns and 77 yards on just 14 carries.

So, yeah, memo to John Fox: give Stewart more carries, especially against a team like the Bears where force > fancy.

Jake Delhomme was hardly effective, numbers-wise, with only 128 yards and a pick, but he made some huge throws when it counted, aided primarily by Muhsin Muhammadchasing history and trying to spite his old teammates. The good news for Jake, though, is that his team is 2-0 and Steve Smith, arguably one of the five best receivers in the league, hasn't even stepped foot on the field this season.

The bad news for the Panthers is that they were flat out miserable in the first half of this game, and a better offensive team might/would have put them away for the afternoon. The Bears aren't that better offensive team, but they're not nearly -- understatement warning -- as bad as most of us thought.

Kyle Orton flashed glimpses of his maturity all afternoon, but he also flashed glimpses of his neckbeard as well, if you're willing to bite on my very loose metaphor. And if you're not willing, allow Mr. Snyder to break it down more clearly: "we're convinced he just throws it as hard as he can and hopes the WR can get it". In other words (although Snyds rebuffed my comparison), Orton is still doing a little drinking at the chunk it deep Sex Cannon well.

Matt Forte, as I have mentioned elsewhere, is very, very good. Not Sweetness good, but very good. And when you consider that the Bears made a Super Bowl run on the shoulders of their defense a few years ago (and, admittedly, Thomas Jones), well, crazier things can happen (again), assuming Orton figures out how to complete a 15 plus yard pass.

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