CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There's not much love lost these days between the Carolina Panthers and the St. Louis Rams.
The Rams, who at 11-2 are tied with Pittsburgh for the best record in the NFL, can understand why the 1-12 Panthers don't like them and don't want to face them today.
"When you are winning football games you tend to make enemies, so there are a lot of teams out there who are envious of what we have in St. Louis," Rams defensive end Grant Wistrom said. "If I was 1-12 and a team was sitting at 11-2, I might have a few problems with what they are doing, too."
But little did the Rams know it goes beyond jealousy.
They do now, thanks to Carolina offensive lineman Todd Steussie, who called St. Louis "whiny" for turning him and other Panthers into the league after the first meeting between the teams this year, which the Rams won 48-14.
"I got fined in the last game for a late hit, which wasn't a penalty on the play, but they sent film to the NFL," Steussie said. "They actually sent a bunch in. I think three or four guys were fined the last game.
"That's a little bit of a whiny attitude in my opinion."
Wistrom disagreed, saying Steussie was standing around looking at the pile of players after the whistle when he hit a St. Louis player on top of the pile.
Wistrom also said lineman Leander Jordan knocked safety Kim Herring out of the game with a concussion on a late hit that wasn't called.
Steussie and Jordan were each fined by the league after the Rams sent in video of the incidents.
"When a guy takes a cheap shot on somebody after the snap and the flag's not thrown, if you don't turn it in, those types of things are going to continue," Wistrom said. "He's probably going to think twice before he does it again."
St. Louis coach Mike Martz said the Rams make a practice of turning players into the league and expect opponents to do the same if one of his players does something illegal. He also said Steussie didn't have a real argument.
"Obviously if it wasn't an infraction and he didn't do anything wrong, he wouldn't have gotten fined," Martz said.
But complaining to the league isn't the only thing the Rams have done to irritate Carolina. The most recent offense came Wednesday, when St. Louis, coming off a physical Monday night game against New Orleans, took the day off.
"I heard they took the day off, and it made me think they were just sitting around thinking, 'We don't need to prepare for the Panthers, "' linebacker Lester Towns said. "Yeah, we're 1-12, but don't take us so light."
In reality, the Rams didn't mean for the extra rest to be taken as a slight against the Panthers.
Coming off a pair of rugged, emotional wins over NFC West challengers San Francisco and New Orleans, Martz said he felt the Rams needed a little more time off than usual - even though he thinks the Panthers could be just as strong an opponent.
"I felt it was really important to have two days off," Martz said. "I watched (the Panthers') last four games and they very easily could be sitting over .500 or at .500.
"They've had a lot of breaks go against them, but it has not changed the attitude in which they play the game, and I know we'll be in for a battle."
The Panthers certainly hope so. In their 12-game losing streak, their loss to the Rams was the only game in which they were blown out.
Marshall Faulk ran for 183 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, then backup Trung Canidate came in for 145 yards and a score as the Rams ran up 337 yards on the ground.
St. Louis jumped to a 31-0 second-quarter lead, causing many Panthers to later wonder if some of their teammates had given up before the game was over.
In Carolina's defense, quarterback Chris Weinke didn't play, leaving Matt Lytle to make his only NFL start.
But Weinke is back, and the Panthers are eager to prove they weren't quitters in the first meeting.
"I don't care if we're playing a winning team, a losing team or a team from heaven," safety Deon Grant said. "This is our business and we've got a job to do and better take it seriously."