The Carolina Panthers have a date with destiny on Thursday, September 20th, 2012.
That night the Panthers will host the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in a nationally televised, prime-time, must-see Thursday Night Football game.
With a stellar performance in this game the Carolina Panthers could burst into national prominence.
The Big Stage of Thursday Night Football
Reports place average viewership of 2011 Thursday Night Football at 6.2 million on the NFL Network, with ratings up 8% over 2010.
Total viewership of Thursday Night Football was 15% higher than the NBA Playoffs on ESPN and TNT and 35% higher than the average for the 2011 MLB playoffs on TBS.
Yes, the average Thursday Night NFL game gets more viewers than the other sports' playoffs.
The eyes of the football world will be watching the Carolina Panthers in September. Carolina could not ask for a better opportunity to shine on a national stage.
NFL Fans Will Not Be Disappointed
Last season the Carolina Panthers were supposed to struggle offensively with a rookie quarterback in Cam Newton, a new coaching staff with a new offensive system led by Rob Chudzinski, and limited practice time due to a lengthy labor dispute.
Rather than struggling, the Panthers' offense exploded last year.
Cam Newton broke nearly every rookie passing record and quarterback rushing record in NFL history. Newton proved he could do anything from taking off for a 49-yard touchdown run or hitting wide receivers on 91-yard touchdown strikes.
Cam Newton's electric play led to his selection as the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Reports from camp indicate that Newton is looking even better in Year 2. America is going to like what is sees from Cam Newton and company on Thursday Night Football.
The Panthers are More Than Cam Newton
But the Carolina Panthers will not break through into national prominence behind Cam Newton alone.
The Panthers will need to play as a team to beat the Giants on Thursday Night, a victory that could get Carolina on the path to the playoffs.
Carolina went 6-10 last year due in large part to a defense that suffered major injuries to a host of key players. Linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis missed virtually the entire year. All three starting defensive tackles - Ron Edwards, Terrell McClain, and Sione Fua- ended the season on the IR.
The Panthers' defense appears healthy as they get ready to face the defending Super Bowl champions later this season.
Not only should last year's injured starters return, but Carolina's first round draft pick linebacker Luke Kuechly could be a game changer.
Seizing the Moment
The football world will be watching the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, September 20th, 2012.
A victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Giants could thrust the Panthers into the national spotlight and could set the tone for a playoff run.
As a Panthers fan I hope the Panthers seize the moment when they have their date with destiny.
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Panthers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check these out articles: