In a game that easily could have resulted in a loss, the New England Patriots advanced to 2-1 after defeating the Houston Texans with a last minute touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks. The AFC rivals were able to surprise the masses, with an offensive push that caused temporary panic all over New England. While their efforts weren’t quite enough, red flags were raised that the opponent will try to exploit during week 4.
At one o’clock on Sunday, the Carolina Panthers will take the field at Gillette Stadium to try to add onto the assault other teams have carried out, which have caused the Patriots defense to allow the most points and yardage in the NFL through the first three weeks.
After losing to the Von Miller led Broncos in the Super Bowl, the Panthers, finishing 6-10 at the bottom of the uber competitive NFC South. While starting one less game than in 2015, Cam Newton saw his touchdown production decline, passing for 16 less touchdowns than the season before, and rushing for what tied a career low of five. Luke Kuechly, the team’s star linebacker suffered from a concussion that limited him to only ten games. The team was unable to recover from the loss of cornerback Josh Norman from free agency.
The Panthers are back in force, off to a 2-1 start, and picked by many to be a team that could return to the playoffs in the 2017 season. How do they look?
What makes the Panthers good?
The former number one overall pick, Cam Newton has helped turn Carolina back into a respectable NFL franchise. In his only career start against Bill Belichick, Cam was able to help Carolina win. Despite not passing for over 4,000 yards since his rookie season, he has dual threat ability that will have the defense on it’s toes.
Similar to opposing teams having trouble planning for the running attack of the Patriots, the duo of Christian McCaffery and Jonathan Stewart provide Carolina with a tandem that is difficult to stop due to a preparedness with multiple options.
Through the first three games, the Patriots defense has been one of the worst. Meanwhile the Panthers have provided one of the best defenses. Two of their opponents have failed to score a touchdown, while the high power offense of the Saints has been the only one to find success. Even Drew Brees was limited to below 225 passing yards, as this defense is ranked as a top three defense in terms of allowing the least points and yardage.
What makes the Panthers bad?
While they haven’t ever been top notch during the Newton era, the receiving corp in not amongst the elite in the league or anywhere close. It does not take a superstar receiver to find success in every case, however there has only been one performance where a pass catcher has eclipsed 80 yards so far this year. That one player is a running back, McCaffery who had 101 yards through the air last week. Kelvin Benjamin was a strong receiver before tearing his ACL a couple of seasons ago, but has not been able to rebound to the level of play he was able to achieve.
While Cam is an asset to the team, the quarterback has struggled to produce big numbers so far this season. In only one game has he surpassed two hundred passing yards, and he has not topped thirty yards on the ground. The Panthers have been able to win two games, but that is primarily attributable to the defense.
How can Carolina win?
For the Panthers to win they need to exploit a Patriot secondary that has been unable to live up to expectations. While they haven’t been able to produce a lot offensively, Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Greg Olsen and others are capable of doing big things if Gilmore, Butler and company are unable to provide their full potentials. The Panthers defense is as capable as most other teams, it will be all about how well their offense is.
Patriots 34- Panthers 24
Tyler’s record 2-1
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