Monday, July 7, 2014

Statement from Brett Jewkes, NASCAR Vice President and Chief Communications Officer

Statement from Brett Jewkes, NASCAR Vice President and Chief Communications Officer


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 7, 2014) – “We are aware of the alliance concept the team owners have announced, but have very few specifics on its structure or purpose. It is apparently still in development and we’re still learning about the details so it would be inappropriate to comment right now. NASCAR’s mission, as it has always been, is to create a fair playing field where anyone can come and compete. Our job is to support and strengthen all of the teams, large and small, across all of our series and we’ll continue to do that. NASCAR is a unique community with hundreds of stakeholders. They all have a voice and always will.”



Brett Jewkes

NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


One of golf's Big Three will be on the Myrtle Beach airwaves for a one on one conversation the day before the Masters. Gary Player, who has won 165 professional events on 6 continents over 6 decades, will join local sports talk show host Aaron Marks on Sports Radio 100.3 The Team. Player was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974 and in 2012 received the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement award.

Player, in addition to his real estate, course development and other business dealings currently operates The Player Foundation, which has a primary objective of promoting underprivileged education around the world.  In 2013 it celebrated its 30th Anniversary with charity golf events in London, Palm Beach, Shanghai and Cape Town, bringing its total of funds raised to over US $50 million.

In 2014 the Gary Player Invitational charity series of events will be staged in Augusta, Georgia after the Masters; in London after The Open Championship; in Shanghai after to the HSBC Championship and at Sun City, South Africa just before the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club.

Player will discuss his Invitational Charity series, his thoughts on golf fitness, and preview the first major of the year at Augusta National Golf Club.

Golf fans, sports fans, and anyone interested in sports fitness or the Masters Golf Tournament is encouraged to tune in. Listeners can listen locally on the radio dial on 100.3 FM. You can also tune in online a variety of ways. The station airs online at The station can also be accessed via the iHeart Radio Application and RDIO radio applications on your smart phone or tablet at no charge, by searching the station call letters 'WSEA'

Sunday, December 8, 2013

When College Football is at it's Height...It Stops

Well we've arrived football fans. The last three weeks of college football may have been the most exciting we've ever seen. Oklahoma State ended Baylor's national championship dream with an epic performance, then fell flat on their face in Bedlam as time wound down making Baylor the Big Twelve Champ. Ohio State roared for 'War Eagle', to turn around the following week and lay an eagle sized egg in the Big Ten Championship. Auburn provided us three of the most intriguing and exciting games in college football history with wins over Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri. And Jameis Winston, despite his name being dragged through the mud in the court of public opinion, continued doing what he's been doing in putting together a perfect season.

Today... it stops. It's over with. In every other organized sport this excitement leads right into a playoff or championship when interest it as its highest. But not college football. College football does things it's own way. It likes to be different. It's above the rest of the class. Why build on momentum? That would be stupid. College football says that we should all catch our breath and reflect for the next four weeks. Sure it'll create that much more anticipation. The talking heads will spend the next month breaking down the championship game. But what happens in that championship game... we have no idea. When teams have four weeks to prepare anything can happen.

In all other sports you want to peak at the right time. In college football you need to peak at the right time, win the right games, schedule properly, make sure you're in the right conference, be a popular entity already, and then you need to be good at enjoying the holidays and figuring out what you were doing a month earlier. It's ludicrous. What sport ends, and then has it's finish a month later?! College football.

I actually don't have a major problem with the college football BCS Bowl system. It's flawed but more often than not we end up with the best two teams going head to head at the end. The problem is we never get to see those same teams that played through the regular season. This thought process of waiting weeks on end to play these games just doesn't make sense to me. It destroys all momentum and any excitement built up over the final weeks.

I get that New Years Day used to be the day we had all the great games. It was a tradition around my house to set up three to four TV's and watch them all with far too much food available. But what significance does January 6th have over December 21st?

The National Championship should be no more than two weeks after the regular season ends. It's complete insanity to make these guys sit around for so long and wait on this game. And who this affects the most is the fans. The bowl game and sponsors think its great because that's four weeks of promotion, breakdown, and value for their brand. But the fans have a short attention span. We have other things to worry about so now it's time to focus on mid-season NBA games (hey did you see Kobe is back today?). The excitement of the NFL playoff race will steal our attention. And since the NFL will go right into it's playoffs the same weekend as the BCS National Championship, some casual fans will forget the college football national championship game was even being played.

This is yet another reason my “NFL” friends make a point to me that I can't counter why the NFL is better to watch and makes more sense.

Fortunately this is all coming to an end. Next year I believe the semifinals will be two weeks after the season finale and the championship two weeks later. It's not ideal, but it does allow for travel accommodations, ticket sales, and when teams have bye weeks they get two weeks to prepare for a game. Why not give them a bye week before the final three games of the regular season.

But for this year it's one more year of waiting, watching a bunch of worthless bowl games that pit teams together who have no business enjoying a post-season, and then hoping the best two teams in the country are still the best two teams in the country when they've been practicing for a month straight.

FSU finished undefeated and #1 at the end of the season so they are the national champs, right? No way...Auburn polished off the Tide, the #5 Missouri Tigers and ran through the SEC with only one loss. Woah guys... let's settle down. We'll figure this all out in a month. Enjoy the holidays.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

How Many Wins Will it Take to Earn NFC Playoff Berth?

The NFL Schedule has worked out this year for the Thanksgiving weekend to kickoff five weeks of football to end the season in the month of December. The last round of bye weeks was taken the weekend prior to the turkey eating holiday and now it's time for the race to the finish.

The AFC is turning into the pillow fight of the century. If you were 5-6 going into Thursday you were one of the six teams tied for the final wild card spot. The Colts and Bengals haven't exactly been impressive. They lead their divisions at 7-4 having played better than the other bad teams. I say we just tell everyone to hit the links, and have a 3 team round robin tournament between the Chiefs, Broncos and Patriots. It would be a crime if anyone other than one of these three represents the conference in the Super Bowl.

The NFC is an entirely different story. It's really unfortunate Rodgers went down with the injury because this race would involve multiple teams from all four divisions. Instead it looks like the great white north will settle for the one team with whoever wins out between the Lions and the Bears. But if you look at the NFC South, NFC West and NFC East you'll find seven of the hottest teams in football in an all out sprint to the finish and there are multiple match ups among them down the stretch. Let's break it down and figure out how many wins it's going to take just to get into the dance in the NFC.

There are five spots up for grabs right now between the seven teams. So the good news is this years playoffs will be fantastic and nearly impossible to predict. As I mentioned before, the race in the North will be a good one and either the Lions or the Bears will earn a playoff spot. I don't see either team going for a wild card.

The seven remaining teams competing for division titles and wild card berths are the Seahawks (winners of 6 in a row), Saints (3 wins in a row), Panthers (7 wins in a row), Cardinals (4 wins in a row), Eagles (3 in a row), Cowboys (back to back wins with the come from behind victory over the Raiders), and 49ers.

Where 5-6 puts you in the playoffs in the AFC, 6-5 puts you in 9th place in the NFC. So for all seven of these teams every game is a must win from here on out to hold their position. The ultimate goal is to win the division, but any of these teams would be more than pleased just to get into the playoffs and with a whole lot of head to head match ups that means these winning streaks are going to start coming to a hault and this should start to get sorted out. But it begs the question, what's the magic number? How many wins is it going to require to get into the playoffs?

For the last three seasons 10-6 got you in, but you needed some tiebreaker help. In 2009 it took 11-5 efforts out of Green Bay and Philadelphia just to earn a wild card. I think this year it will be a similar situation and even at 11 wins, tiebreakers may come into play.

Let's project it out and show the key match ups the rest of the season:

Seattle (10-1) easily in the best shape, but of all 7 teams they have the most difficult remaining schedule:
Coming off a bye week the Seahawks host the Saints on Monday 12/2, @San Fran 12/8, @New York Giants 12/15 (1:00 east coast kickoff), Arizona 12/22, & St. Louis 12/29.

The only game I can confidently say the Seahawks will win is against St. Louis on 12/29.

Projected Final Record: 13-3, NFC West Champs, #1 Seed

New Orleans (9-2) Also in very good shape, currently in 2nd in the conference, and not as difficult remaining schedule but massive divisional games against Carolina remaining:
@Seattle 12/2, Carolina 12/8, @St. Louis 12/15, @Carolina 12/22, Tampa Bay 12/29.

The Bucs are playing better than earlier in the season and St. Louis is no cupcake in their house. But I think the Saints win both those games. I think they split with the Panthers and lose at Seattle.

Projected Final Record: 12-4, NFC South Champ due to a better record in Conference than Carolina, #2 seed

Carolina (8-3) Ok the win streak has got to end sooner or later, right? The Panthers, after going through murderers row in November and posting a 4-0 record, have a much more manageable schedule in December. They win 4 games again and drop the road game to New Orleans:
Tampa 12/1, @New Orleans 12/8, New York Jets 12/15, New Orleans 12/22, @Atlanta 12/29

In conference Saints will have a better record than the Panthers so that drops Carolina to a wild card.

Projected Final Record: 12-4, Wild Card, #5 Seed

San Francisco (7-4) The 27-7 loss to the Colts is a head scratcher but I guess they've won every other game they were supposed to. Only other losses have been to the Seahawks, Panthers, and Saints. And I think they get the Seahawks when they play them at home:
St. Louis 12/1, Seattle 12/8, @Tampa Bay 12/15, Atlanta 12/23, @Arizona 12/19

I think there's one slip up in there, but they can get 4 wins in their final 5 to lock up the final wild card. Even if they win out they lose the head to head tie breaker to Carolina and New Orleans. So it's going to be difficult for 49ers to do better than 6 seed. Crazy, huh?

Projected Final Record: 11-5, Wild Card, #6 seed

Arizona (7-4) Really tough finish with three road games and I think they'll be playing the Seahawks after they lose back to back games against SF and @NYG. Not the time you want to draw Russel Wilson and Co.:
@Philadelphia 12/1, St. Louis 12/8, @Tennessee 12/15, @Seattle 12/22, San Franciscio 12/29

Three wins in the next five? I don't see it. Good luck Arizona. It's been a nice run but the division is too tough to keep pace.

Projected Final Record: 9-7, Not in Playoffs, Too bad they aren't in the AFC

Philadelphia (6-5) The Eagles are playing for the division before the wild card. I think the Panthers/Saints/49ers/Cardinals/Seahawks make the wild card race too tough to deal with. But they are only one game back of the Cowboys in the East and playing well right now. Here's the remaining schedule and how I think it plays out:
Arizona 12/1, Detroit 12/8, @Minnesota 12/15, Chicago 12/22, @Dallas 12/29

That's 4 playoff contenders in the final 5. The Eagles 3 game winning streak has come against Oakland, Green Bay w/out Rodgers, and Washington. They won't win more than 3 of remaining 5.

Projected Final Record: 9-7, Not in Playoffs

Dallas (7-5) The Cowboys have .5 games up on the Eagles with the come from behind win against Oakland on Thanksgiving. Plus they get the Eagles at home to end the year so they only need to win 1 more game plus the match up with Philly in their in. I think they get a couple more wins but it doesn't help their seeding:
@Chicago 12/9, Green Bay 12/15, @Washington 12/22, Philadelphia 12/29

I don't care what happens at Chicago and if Rodgers is back for GB, the Cowboys will beat Washington and Philadelphia to wrap up the year and take the East.

Projected Final Record: 10-6, NFC East Champs, #4 Seed

NFC North: Detroit stomped Green Bay on Thanksgiving to KO the Packers hopes of Rodgers possibly getting them back into the playoff discussion. Their only remaining divisional game is the end of the year versus the Vikings. They get the Giants and Ravens at home on their remaining schedule and they beat Dallas head to head. Detroit will finish 10-6 and be the 3 seed. The Bears lost both match ups to the Lions and have Dallas and Philly on their remaining schedule. They must win out to win the division and that's not going to happen.

So the answer to my initial question is 11. It will take 11 wins minimum to earn a wild card in the NFC this year. It will take 10 wins to win the East and the North, although 9 might get the job done.

Aaron Marks is the Host of The Drive airing M-F 3-6 p.m. On Sports Radio 100.3 The Team in Myrtle Beach, SC. Tune in at Follow him on twitter @AMonFM

Sunday, November 24, 2013

NCAA Football BCS Nightmare Scenarios

Deck the Halls! 'Tis the Season. Nope, not for egg knog and holiday music... well. Maybe it's that to. But it's also the time of year where all of us who cover college football, are fans of college football, work in college football begin to freak out. We have two reasons for commencing freak out on our friends or radio shows:

1) EVERYBODY IS GOING UNDEFEATED! What are we going to do with 9 undefeated teams at the end of the year?!


2) All of the teams we had planned all season long in playing for a national championship are losing! We can't have Auburn in the national championship. We didn't PREDICT Auburn to be in the National Championship.

While neither of the above will come true (the BCS always seems to work outself out with 2 teams left standing at the end) it is fun to start to speculate on some of the nightmare scenarios for conference commissioners, University Presidents, and the TV Networks who have spent so much money to get these games and then possibly have nobody want to tune in.

Now that we've moved on past freak our scenario #1 (we're down to 3 relevant undefeated teams and I'm not sure ANY of them win out over the next 2 weeks) let's move on to scenario #2. Besides, this one is a lot more fun to discuss. Here are some very real possibilities that many people in college football do not want to have happen. I'll put a percentage of likelihood next to each one as well and we'll monitor over the next few weeks to see if any come true.

Commissioner John Swofford's Nightmare (ACC):
Florida State Football is back on top of the college football world. It has the best QB in college football and is sitting pretty with a #2 ranking and can walk into the national title game. There are two nightmare situations here... one we'll get into later on with FSU making it into the National Championship. Here's the other.
Duke is having the season of all seasons. This week they lose to a surging North Carolina team. VT barely beats UVA, Miami beats Pitt. Five of the Seven teams in the Coastal Division are all tied at 5-3 in conference play. The pundits in the ACC didn't even know this was mathematically possible. The tie breakers comes down to record in division which VT wins at 5-1 (this is Coach Beamer's 2nd worse teams in a decade, the worst was last year). The Hokies defense finds itself from the defense that dominated GT, UNC, and Miami. Jameis is charged with rape and is suspended from the game. An unranked VT team wins the ACC title game, which is attended by 30,000 people because the general public doesn't want to go with Jameis not playing, VT fans don't go because they always go and they think they'll lose, FSU fans are mad at the State Attorney and they don't buy tickets, a bunch of Duke fans who pre-purchased tickets decide to hold on to the money for hotel and gas and wait for the NCAA Basketball tournament. VT goes to the Orange Bowl, and gets pummeled by David Carr's little brother at Fresno State.
A national Championship and the Heisman tropy are gone in an instant. Clemson wins the Sugar Bowl over Auburn, but nobody gives a damn. Likelihood of Happening: A lot more than you realize. I'm going with 65%

Commissoner Mike Slives Nightmare (SEC):
After seven years of total domination, and two teams ranked in the top 5 going into the final week of the regular season it appears Mike Slive will make his annually scheduled trip back to the sidelines of the BCS National Championship game. But it's not to be. The SEC doesn't like surprise teams. They like traditional powers. It's what the conference was built on. Cinderella does not live in Mississippi or Alabama. So the thought of an Auburn vs. Missouri SEC Championship game will make Mike Slives skin crawl. And it's very possible. Two teams that combined to go 8-16 last year are now each one win away from a meeting in Atlanta. And both teams are HOME for that final game. If they both lose, it will be Alabama vs. South Carolina. Nick Saban vs. Steve Spurrier. The game will be played centrally between the two schools. You've never seen so much clashing of Garnet and Maroon before. This is SEC Football. But if Mizzou and Auburn pull it out, it will be Tigers vs. Tigers. Auburn would have an outside shot of leaping into the national championship with a win, but a win over Mizzou isn't as heavy as Ohio State beating Michigan State. So they won't leap that high. Plus this is a nightmare, right? In their 2nd year in the conference, the team who was invited to the SEC simply to have a rival for the Aggies and create balanced divisions wins the whole thing. Coach Gary Pinkel has this to say after winning the title, "We played well". Thanks, Coach. Likelihood of happening: 30%. Alabama is really good and should roll over Auburn. They will destroy whoever they play in Atlanta.

Commissioner Jim Delany's Nightmare (Big Ten):
This is all working according to plan. Urban Meyer has successfully built another evil empire in Columbus by pounding the powerhouses that are San Diego State, Buffalo and Florida A&M. But hey, they're undefeated. You also have a Michigan State team who inexplicably lost to Notre Dame, but is still 10-1 and could be ranked in the top ten for the Big Ten Championship. Alabama could lose to Auburn, FSU could lose their star, Ohio State is comfortably sitting at #3 ready to move into the national title game. Here's the nightmare. Michigan State, who nobody is talking about, goes up against the Golden Gophers in the season finale and they lose (Minnesota is ranked #25 after all). MSU already has their ticket punched to the Championship. They then go in and knock off the Buckeyes. Michigan State plays Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl. Lane Kiffin is invited in as an honorary captain and special assistant or some bogus coaching role for the Spartans where he's paid $1.2 Million for his services and naturally, they lose by 40. Likelihood of happening: 40% Don't write off the Spartans. The Lane Kiffin thing: 0%. But how great would it be?

Commissioner Larry Scott's Nightmare (Pac 12):
Stanfords gets into the top 5 national rankings. Loses to Utah. Somehow gets back to the top 5 (don't tell me Condy Rice doesn't have an impact on college football), Beats Oregon in the Thursday Night Game of the Century by gaining 3.5 yards per play every down. Follows that up by losing to Southern Cal who was 4-3 and totally irrelevant a month ago. Oregon gets back on track after the Stanford loss (not a bad loss and they're still in the race) by beating Utah and then they lose by 26 to Arizona who is dressed entirely in red head to toe, symbolizing the Devil in Larry Scott's Nightmare. Marcus Mariota says after the game the Rose Bowl isn't important to him because he's been there and done that. The Heisman contingency now leaves him off the ballot because they only give the Heisman to stand up individuals who respect the game and amateur athleticism of college sports. With two weeks to go in the season nobody is better than 2 losses.
Oh... wait. Sorry Larry. Likelihood of happening: 100%

Dr. Mark Emmert's Nightmare (President of NCAA):
Everything actually works out. FSU wins out. James is acquitted of any charges. Ohio State loses to Sparty. Alabama and FSU are the only 2 unbeatens from BCS conferences and will play for the national title. The final year of the BCS as we know it is a success.
But two things happen over Christmas. Mack Brown is privately told to put in his resignation or be publicly humiliated. He agrees to resign but Texas will wait until Jan 15 to announce the news. Also Nick Sabans wife purchases a home in Austin. The Real Estate agent leaks the news that Nick Saban will leave Alabama for Texas after the season. The University doesn't mind because they instantly win all recruiting battles with the Sooners and Aggies with this news.
Back in Tallahassee, some new evidence is uncovered in the Jameis Winston investigation and he is in fact charged with a felony by the State Attorney. By FSU Rule, he is immediately suspended from the football and baseball team. Since FSU can now no longer generate points, and A.J. McCarron can do nothing wrong in life with or without Saban (have you seen A.J's girlfriend?) Alabama wins another national championship. Tide fans are pissed thought because they will never win another national championship again with Saban gone, the ratings for the championship game plummet when 'Bama is up 21-0 at halftime and the college football season ends at the lowest of all low points. Likelihood of happening: .02%

Aaron Marks is the host of The Drive which airs M-F 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. on Sports Radio 100.3 The Team. Follow him on twitter @AMonFM

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gamecocks can't win on the hardwood

It really boggles the mind. The University of South Carolina. So many accolades to hang their hat on in sports.

The Football team... competing at the highest level. Every year the Gamecocks have aspirations of an SEC championship and this year they have arguably the best player in the country. Williams Brice Stadium creates an atmosphere that even the #1 ranked Crimson Tide couldn't handle on their last visit. And if Alabama had to come to Columbia this year, I'd favor the Gamecocks to win.

The Baseball team... represents what teams across the country strive to be. A radio network that rivals some major league clubs. An expectation to play for the national championship which may be the most difficult national championship in college sports to win. The Gamecocks played in the final series 3 years in a row and were a couple errors in Chapel Hill away from a 4th consecutive trip to Omaha.

Even the Women's Basketball team has risen to new heights under Dawn Staley. They get national TV exposure in a sport still grasping for viewers attention. And why shouldn't they? They play in one the best arenas in the country that seats 18,000 strong.

But then there's Men's Basketball. They play in the SEC which is home to one of the greatest programs in the country in Kentucky. The hated rival Florida Gators were down last year but expect to make runs in the NCAA Tournament every year. And Georgia even had a player taken in the top 10 of the NBA Draft last week.

The Gamecocks went out and paid $2 million per year for a respected head coach and have made a commitment to improving the program and reach the level set by the football and baseball programs. But until the best basketball players in the state of South Carolina start to embrace and understand that commitment, none of it will matter.

On Tuesday night the Gamecock Men's Basketball program took a slap in the face from the states top recruit. L.J. Peak organized a press conference with his good buddy Shaq Davidson. The press conference was in Gafney, SC- 101 miles to the northwest of the campus in Columbia. Friends and family showed up along with the media. Which media? The Gamecock media. Writers and camera crews from Columbia filled the room to cover one of Frank Martin's top recruits since taking over the program. Not Washington D.C. or Tallahassee media. What was the point in them coming? Peak never even made an official visit to Georgetown. He was supposed to a few weeks ago but he canceled it.

Turns out... he didn't need to see the campus. He saw plenty last Thursday night when the NBA Draft coverage showed Otto Porter selected as the 3rd overall pick in the 2013 Draft. How many Gamecock names were called on Thursday night? None. So the decision was made.

Peak put on his USC hat to the pleasure of those in attendance and it appeared Gamecock Football (yes Davidson did commit to the Gamecocks) and Basketball both had their guys. Then he quickly removed the cap, tossed it aside (its unfortunate there wasn't a trash can available because that would have been more appropriate) and he put on his Georgetown Hoyas hat.

"I just figured Georgetown can get me to the next level and so I just happened to choose Georgetown," Peak said to the SC Sports Talk Network, "They have a great history and I just thought why not join the history. South Carolina ain't really got a history of great players and getting them to the NBA so I just happened to choose Georgetown."

So apparently Peak is a good basketball player, but he's not that good. If he was he'd be confident enough in his abilities that it didn't matter where he played, he could get himself to the NBA.

It appears he's not really planning to stick around long enough to build up the Gamecock program anyway, and we're not exactly in a situation to go for a national championship like John Calipari can. In the end all is well with this decision because with the level of maturity this kid has, I don't think Gamecocks want him around anyway. Here are some parting words he had to say about why he built up this press conference, put on the Gamecock hat, and in every way imaginable led Gamecock fans and media to believe he was going there and went another direction...

"I just though it would be fun because everybody thought me and Shaq were going to the same school. I just thought I'd change it up a little bit. I really though about going to South Carolina, I just happened to change it."

Well L.J... we hope you had fun.

Aaron Marks is the Sports Director and Afternoon Drive Show Host for CBS Sports Radio 100.3 'The Team' in Myrtle Beach, SC. His show airs daily M-F from 3-6 p.m. and can be heard on the Grand Strand on 100.3 and worldwide at Follow him on Twitter @AMonFM

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Reaction to Panthers 2013 Schedule

Based on winning percentages from last year the Carolina Panthers have the toughest schedule in the NFL... but is it really? A schedule is so much more than wins and losses but how the games line up. How much travel do you do and when do you play critical divisional games. Let's break down how tough this schedule really is.

Yes the Panthers schedule is difficult. Yes this team is still trying to figure some things out. But new players in the secondary, some depth in the receiving corps, and another year of experience for Cam Newton means this team is better than they were a year ago.
Cam's rookie season was 6 wins. Last year they upped that to 7 and took 2nd place in the NFC South. Common sense this year says 8 wins. And with this schedule... I definitely see 8 wins. In fact their could be 9 or 10. One of my bold predictions for 2013 was a 10-6 campaign for the Panthers and I'll stand by that until the Panthers lose game #7. Here's some breakdown of the NFL's toughest schedule that actually isn't so tough.
  1. Divisional opponents. Every Sunday Matters in NFL Football. But 6 of your 16 games are against the division and winning the division means you're in the playoffs. In 2012 Carolina opened on the road in divisional play against Tampa Bay and they played everyone in the division within the first four weeks of the season. The one home game they got vs. New Orleans, they won. The other two were narrow loses on the road that led to a 1-6 start and quick end to the season. When the Panthers hit their stride they went 6-3 down the stretch winning 5 of their last 6 games of the year. This year the Panthers don't play a divisional game until Week 7 and 4 of their 6 divisional games are played over the final 5 weeks of the season. This year the Panthers will be playing the divisional opponents after working out the kinks and a more seasoned team should work through the early season woes quicker.
  2. Favors on the road. Winning in the NFL is hard. Winning on the road in the NFL is harder. And winning on a short week, or traveling cross country for an early Sunday afternoon game is damn near impossible. Weather conditions can play a factor as well. The Panthers got lots of favors on the road this year. They get Buffalo early on the road when it will be pleasant in upstate N.Y. and they get to go to Miami in November when it won't be 100 degrees outside in South Beach. Both west coast games are 4:05 kickoffs. Which makes sense. It's rare to see a west coast game kick at 1:00 EST and that makes it far easier for teams to travel east to west rather than west to east. Their first west coast game against Arizona comes after a bye and Arizona will be returning home after back to back road games AT New Orleans and AT Tampa Bay... boy no favors for the Cardinals this year in their travel plans. The Panthers have back-to-back road games only once and it's the two weeks following the bye @Arizona and @Minnesota.
  3. Favorable home games. To go with a favorable road schedule, the Panthers also get home games that will be tough situations for the opposition. It's the season opener so may not matter, but Seattle makes their first of three road trips to the east coast for 1:00 kick offs against Carolina on opening day. In last years 4-point win for the Seahawks kickoff was 4:05 in Charlotte. St. Louis has to travel in for a 1:00 game as well, one week after traveling to Houston and getting beat up by J.J Watt, Ed Reed and the Texans. And Carolina opens up a tough November stretch against Atlanta coming off 10 days of rest with a Thursday night game against Tampa the week before. Atlanta will be coming to Carolina 7 days after a return flight from Arizona that will get them home around midnight on Sunday night.
None of this stuff is the end all be all and doesn't guarantee a win or a loss. But it's amazing how a couple of tweaks to the schedule (afternoon game here, less travel there) can help a team survive the season.

I'm not going to sugar coat what is one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. And the November line up of games followed by the stretch run of divisional match ups could be what kills a successful September and October for these Panthers. But when you start to dig a little bit the Panthers do have some things playing in their favor. And the start is very manageable. Get off to a good start, build some confidence, and play games that mean something in November and December can make all the difference for a playoff contender.

Here is the Panthers schedule with my predictions and how they get to 10-6 and a wild card spot in the NFC Playoffs:

Sun 9/8 vs. Seattle 1:00 p.m. Win (1-0)
Sun 9/15 @ Buffalo 1:00 p.m. Win (2-0)
Sun 9/22 vs. NYG 1:00 p.m. Loss (2-1)
BYE Week
Sun 10/6 @ Arizona 4:05 p.m. Win (3-1)
Sun 10/13 @ Minnesota 1:00 p.m. Loss (3-2)
Sun 10/20 vs. St. Louis 1:00 p.m. Win (4-2)
Thu 10/24 @ Tampa Bay 8:25 p.m. Win (5-2)
Sun 11/3 vs. Atlanta 1:00 p.m. Win (6-2)
Sun 11/10 @ San Francisco 4:05 p.m. Loss (6-3)
Mon 11/18 vs. New England 8:30 p.m. Win (7-3)
Sun 11/24 @ Miami 1:00 p.m. Loss (7-4)
Sun 12/1 vs. Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Win (8-4)
Sun 12/8 @ New Orleans 1:00 p.m. Loss (8-5)
Sun 12/15 vs. New York Jets 1:00 p.m. Win (9-5)
Sun 12/22 vs. New Orleans 1:00 p.m. Win (10-5)
Sun 12/29 @ Atlanta 1:00 p.m. Loss (10-6)