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Courtesy of Forbes

Charlotte, North Carolina, my home and where the Carolina Panthers reside (for now), is currently undergoing massive upheaval as a result of a tax revaluation by the Mecklenburg County Tax Assessor’s Office. This is the first revaluation since 2011, and Charlotte has only continued to increase in its population to the tune of roughly 54 people a day. This population growth coupled with a lack of supply in housing stock (both affordable and otherwise) has led to the kind of real estate speculation that spells disaster for working class neighborhoods. 

The Tax Assessor’s Office reported that commercial property jumped by an average of 77% while residential jumped by an average of 43%. As a result, people are making tough, kitchen table decisions like appealing their revaluation or moving before a property tax rate is set in July. The revaluation has turned an affordable housing crisis into a nightmare with horror stories of affected neighborhoods devastated and residents despondent with the choices ahead of them. 

There was a story released this past Thursday that one major fixture of the region is also feeling the squeeze: David Tepper’s Carolina Panthers. 

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Regardless of what happens on February 5th, the 2016-17 NFL Playoffs have undeniably been an offensive showcase. Some of this was due to the best defenses in the league (Denver, Baltimore) inexplicably missing the playoffs in favor of a Ryan Tannehill Matt Moore-led Dolphins team[1]. There were also multiple playoff teams with legitimate game changing defensive stars (Earl Thomas, Khalil Mack, and J.J. Watt) who fell prey to injuries. With the road cleared, the NFL’s streaking QBs and star skill position players drove down the field on nearly every possession. Al Michaels surely hopes everyone bet the over.

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Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Has anyone else noticed that something seems a little off with professional football, lately? Sure, the NFL is still showing up to work on time, and credit is due, it now even shows up on three days a week instead of just two. Technically, it is still doing its job just fine, and it is definitely not disrupting anyone else’s job either. Hell, it even cracked a smile a few times last week, but… there is just something missing.

This league used to be so passionate about its job. Now it seems to be punching the clock and waiting until the end of the year to really put in the real effort. There is some noticeable sloppiness too: more penalties, a drop in primetime ratings and two ties in one year. That is just not the league everyone has learned to count on for so many years. That’s not the real NFL. Without prying too much, is it time to ask the league some tough questions about its performance?

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Patrick Smith/SI.com

High expectations can be dangerous; overreactions, even more so. Change is unavoidable, so no one should be too shocked that the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals are both 1-3. It could be an unlucky streak, or it could be a changing of the guard. It is simply too early to say. Of course, some things never seem to change. To the frustration of many, the New England Patriots keep winning against all odds because Bill Belichick is a true football savant who consistently switches up his strategy to outwit the opposition. These narratives are not going anywhere, as fans will definitely still be debating the fates of these preseason favorites deep into December and January.

In the meantime, it’s better to focus on the developing subplots. These are not the stories that receive the most attention early on because everyone is too busy losing their minds over their fantasy season not working out as planned. These are the fun developments that show a player making the leap from good to great or the weird trends that threaten to turn the league upside down before they inevitably become just another footnote.

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Football is back. Can you believe it? Last night, sitting in my favorite bar with two of my favorite people, I got to yell “WIDE LEFT” drunkenly at a muted television screen just before Graham Gano made contact with the football and turned my words into reality and an 0-1 start to the season for the Carolina Panthers.

I felt alive.

And now that football is back, so is the Hypothetical SuperContest. It’s our fourth year here! We’ve had our ups, our downs and probably a few to many references to Jon Gruden. For those that have been here from the jump (Hi Rory! Hi Dad!): thanks so much for supporting my degenerate dreams. For those new to this space, welcome to my gambling nightmare.

Well, it’s not necessarily a nightmare. Not every week at least.

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