I swear it seems like the Packers are never playing at Lambeau Field on Sundays.  This sucks because honestly there is no better Sunday than one spent at Lambeau Field and the surrounding area.  Honestly it feels that way because it’s accurate.  The Packers have played one home game on a Sunday so far.  The team has 10 games left and six of those are at home.  Green Bay has already played 4 of their 8 road games this season and has been able to split those contests.  This leaves a very inviting schedule in which the packers have a 6/4 home-road split in their last 10 games with 2 of those road games (Min, TB) being played against teams in the league’s bottom 5.

There’s no excitement for a displaced member of Packer Nation like an upcoming pilgrimage to Lambeau Field.  It takes about 7 1/2 hours to get from my driveway to the promised land of Green Bay, WI.  It’s the shortest 7 1/2 hours there is.  The first time that we made the trip the anticipation was high, never having seen the field before.  Having experienced Packers Gamedays over and over has done nothing to temper the excitement.  It’s still the most wonderful place on earth.

Sunday’s game is a big deal for the Packers.  Not only is it a conference home game against a team that is leading their division but it marks a challenge for the Packers defense as a whole.  The Packers have had a difficult time defending mobile quarterbacks since Michael Vick came into the league.  This was a problem before the read option came back into the NFL.  Now that teams are actually optioning their opponents best pass rushers the Packers have really struggled.  With the exception of the season opening game against San Francisco in 2013, the Packers haven’t been able to defend running quarterbacks well, sometimes failing in spectacular fashion.

This game marks the first time in a long time where the #1 threat that the opponent has is their quarterback’s running ability.  The Panthers are going to be without 3 of their top 4 backs including their starter, DeAngelo Williams.  Their #1 WR is probably out with a concussion.  If the Packers can contatin Newton, it’s unlikely Carolina will be able to keep up.

Why the Packers Will Win- talent level.  The Panthers tied up tons and tons of money in two running backs, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.  They are also paying Greg Hardy a large sum of money to be on the Commissioner’s “Dirtbag List”.  That has created a situation in which good players have been allowed to walk away and ultimately has created a top heavy, thin roster.  Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly and Kawann Short are fantastic football players, but you can’t win in this league with 3 guys.  The defense that carried Carolina to a 12-4 record a season ago ranks 28th in DVOA (FootballOutsiders), checking in at 23rd against the pass and 27th against the run.  Most importantly they do not have the defensive front that can dominate Green Bay’s offensive line.

As far as I’m concerned the worst case scenario for the Packers is a shootout.  It’s possible that they just cannot contain Cam Newton, but the way that the Panthers match up with Green Bay’s offense is really not good for them.  The Panthers have two dominant defensive tackles and a pair of spectacular linebackers in coverage, but the back end is a travesty.  Antoine Cason is struggling mightily and Melvin White isn’t very good either.  The safety tandem of Thomas DeCoud nad Roman Harper are pretty immobile.  The Panthers are the type of defense that the Packers can run their outside zone and off tackle runs against.  Because they’ll be able to run the ball effectively the play action game should decimate Carolina.

Defensively, injuries to Carolina and a weak offensive line have rendered the Panthers one dimensional on offense.  If the Packers can get one of their starting cornerbacks to play on Sunday (and probably even if they can’t) they should just be keying on Newton.  If he can be held in check, and more importantly if the Packers can jump to the early lead and eliminate the run, this thing could get out of hand.

Why the Panthers Will Win– Cam Newton.  It’s entirely possible that Cam could put the Panthers on his back and end up with the ball last in a shootout with Aaron Rodgers.  He doesn’t have a great offensive line blocking for him and is quickly running out of targets in the passing game.  He ran the ball 17 times last Sunday against Cincinnati for over 100 yards.  The willingness of Carolina’s coaching staff to run Newton that many times says that they feel pretty comfortable about his injured ankle.  If he gets going and the Packers outside linebackers continue to look clueless against the option it’s possible that it could open things up on the back end for him to throw.

There is honestly nothing about Carolina’s defense that would lead me to believe it could contribute to their winning the game.  They don’t defend the run well and they don’t defend the pass.  They can’t get pressure with 4 and the only way to beat the Packers offense is to shut down Eddie Lacy and hit Aaron Rodgers.  I don’t believe Carolina can do either.

Fantasy Packer to Start- Eddie Lacy- stand by your man.  I know that you probably had to take Eddie in the top 6 or 7 in your draft to have him on your team and that he’s really been frustrating.  The Panthers can’t run the ball.  Eddie seems to run the ball better at home anyway.  I anticipate a very nice game from #27 on Sunday.

Fantasy Packer to Sit- I cannot recommend sitting anyone that you would normally start.  This Davante Adams thing is real, people.  Heck I even wrote about it.

Bottom Line- I just don’t see how Green Bay loses this game.  They basically never lose home games When Rodgers starts at QB and this Carolina team isn’t gonna be the one to do it.  They let an AJ Green-less Cincinatti offense led by Andy Dalton hang 37 points on them.  What are they going to be able to do against Aaron Rodgers.  This Panthers team will have the weakest group of wide receivers that the Packers will face this season, so it is probably OK that they (possibly) be without their starting cornerback tandem.  If the Packers can key on Newton like they did on Kaepernick in 13 they’ll be fine.  Part of me believes that the Packers were completely unprepared for the Dolphins to run Ryan Tannehill.  In the other 4 games, Tannehill ran the ball 13 total times.  The Packers know Cam Newton is coming, and I think they’ll be ready.  Packers 38 Carolina 17



Ross Uglem is a writer at PackersTalk.com. You can follow Ross on twitter at RossUglem