As a Carolina Panthers fan there are certain teams I look forward to facing every year. NFC South rivals like the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers always get the adrenaline flowing.
But sometimes I look forward to watching individual opposing players more than the team the Panthers are playing.
Here are the five most entertaining, electric opposing players the Carolina Panthers will face in 2012.
Week 3 - Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
After not recording a reception as an undrafted rookie in 2010, Victor Cruz started his 2011 campaign slowly with two receptions for 17 yards in the first two games. Then, in Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles, Cruz went for 3-110-2 and never looked back.
Cruz finished 2011 third in the NFL with 1,536 yards and scored a big touchdown in the Giants' Super Bowl victory. It will be interesting to see what he does against a shaky Panthers' secondary.
Week 8 - Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears
Julius Peppers is now the guy Panthers fans love to hate. After terrorizing quarterbacks in Carolina from 2002-2009, making the Pro Bowl five times in the process, the hometown North Carolina boy split for the Windy City, with many Panthers fans saying "good riddance" in the process.
I wish Peppers could have remained in Carolina - on good terms - for the rest of his career, but now as a member of the Chicago Bears I can't wait to root against him.
Week 9 - Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
Just watch this video. The dude's going to be electric.
Week 10 - Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
Anything could be happening with the new Denver Broncos' QB by Week 10. Peyton Manning could be destroying secondaries like he did in Indianapolis. Or he could be disappointing as he struggles to adapt to a new system, players, and an outdoor stadium. Or Manning's neck could be re-injured and his season - and possibly his career - could be over with. Whatever Manning's status is by Week 10, I'm tuning in.
Week 12 - Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Even casual NFL fans tune in to watch Michael Vick, but facing the explosive QB is even more meaningful for Panthers fans. Vick was raised in Virginia and played his college ball at Virginia Tech, putting him on the map throughout the Carolinas long before he reached the NFL.
Vick was then drafted first overall by the Panthers' NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons and became an annual nemesis of the Panthers from 2002-2007. Vick's imprisonment for dog fighting makes him an even more interesting, though for deplorable reasons, player to watch.
An Electric Season to Come
As a Carolina fan I will be watching entertaining players every week with the Panthers alone. Cam Newton should be even more explosive (if that's even possible) in Year 2. Steve Smith is always electric. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart can break a touchdown on any play. Rookie LB Luke Kuechly should be a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
With an entertaining Panthers team, deep-seeded NFC South rivalries, and compelling individual opponents to come, 2012 should be electric almost every week of the season.
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Panthers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check these out articles: