Early Bird Breakdown Week 7: Carolina Panthers @ Green Bay Packers
Hello all, welcome back for week 7 of the Early Bird Breakdown, the Green Bay Packers hosting the Carolina Panthers. Before we dive in, as always, let’s look back at last weeks matchup’s.
The Recap: Green Bay Packers @ Miami Dolphins
Aaron Rodgers did what he does best, creating something out of nothing and making magic on the football field. With fifteen-seconds left to go on the clock, Rodgers perfectly executed a fake spike and threw the ball to Adams who dashed to the six yard line before being shoved out of bounds with six-seconds left. It was a play first made legendary by Dan Marino, and Rodgers pulled the trick out in Marino’s old stomping ground.
The following play Rodgers hooked up to Andrew Quareless on a perfect throw to take the lead with only three-seconds remaining. The defense also took a step forward, only allowing 112 total rushing yards, the lowest so far for Green Bay this season. The Packers’ secondary continues to be the strength of the defense, despite late in the game losing both starting corners in Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. As for the Panthers, they went to overtime against Cincinnati and came away with a tie. While impressive as it is to go into Cincinnati and nearly win (Cincinnati has not lost yet at home), the Panthers ended up blowing the game on defense, having a touchdown lead going into the fourth quarter.
Packers’ Offense vs. Panthers’ Defense:
Last season, Carolina was right behind Seattle for the best defense in the league. What a difference a year and a suspension makes. Ever since the indefinite suspension of Greg Hardy, the Panthers’ star defensive end, the team has looked dreadful on defense. They are getting no push on the offensive line to slow running games, giving up 140.2 yards per game against the run, 27th in the league. Their pass defense is not much better, giving up 252.3 yards per game. In three of the last four games, they have given up 37 or more points. This is a game either Lacy or Rodgers could take over, the Panthers are reeling right now. Even with AJ Green sidelined for Cincinnati last week, Andy Dalton threw for 323 yards with Mohamed Sanu leading the way for the receivers, grabbing 120 of those yards and a touchdown. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams are all matchups, and Rodgers will put up his biggest performance this season.
Rodgers will for sure put up his best game this season, assuming he is not pulled early like in the Vikings game. Jordy Nelson will hit 100 yards. Cobb and Adams are both mismatches for Carolina. Most importantly, they cannot generate any pressure with their front right now and that will give Rodgers the time to pick them apart. What should help is I feel this will be a lot closer to the Vikings game for Eddie Lacy than the rest. Carolina’s defense has been spiraling out, and they are making bad gap reads. Lacy should see more open looks and get back some confidence.
Packers’ Defense vs. Panthers’ Offense:
While the Green Bay Packers have steadily improved defensively the last few weeks, they still are dead last against the run. The team currently is being carried by a talented and very confidant secondary. Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayword, Micah Hyde, & HaHa Clinton-Dix have all played very well and are getting better as the season goes on. Having said that, Sam Shields is for sure out and Tramon Williams is a game-time decision, and it is a coin-flip whether or not he suits up at this point. The Packers will rely on their depth in their strongest unit the secondary against an offense without many weapons. Kelvin Benjamin is the only wide receiver that has proved reliable at this point, last week the second wide receiver Jericho Cotchery had the game winning touchdown go right through his hands after Benjamin suffered a concussion. The second biggest mismatch the Panthers have is Greg Olson, who has been great so far this season. Historically, tight ends have given defensive coordinator Dom Capers and the Packers defense fits. The biggest mismatch will be Cam Newton against all eleven Packers.
Newton has been great this season, carrying this team to its 3-2-1 record. They have literally no one playing running back. Going into the season, they had a pair of mediocre backs in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, both of which are out. They have two people who can reliably catch on their roster. Their offensive line is in shambles. Heck, look at this play where right off the snap, the right tackle is blown up instantly and Newton has nothing but Bengals in front of him.
He takes one step back and then just glides to the sideline. Newton had a season high 17 runs last week. Some of which were designed. After having ankle surgery in the offseason, they have finally let him off the leash to run. What has truly been amazing is just how well he is throwing it. It is no contest right now between two quarterbacks drafted in the 2012 draft, Cam Newton has drastically outclassed Collin Kaepernick this season in terms of being a quarterback, and Packers fans know how much damage a dual threat quarterback like that can do to this defense. I expect the defense to contain Carolina simply because the Packers only have to focus on two people in the passing game and contain Newton, since the team cannot run it effectively with their running backs. If they let Newton go, this will be a long battle of the offenses, as the Packers are fourth in the league in missing tackles according to profootballfocus.com.
The Weather Factor:
It will be a cool, cloudy, but overall pleasant game for the Packers. The forecast is for slight winds and 51o at kickoff.
Aaron Rodgers told Packers fans to relax and no one is worried now. Rodgers has engineered three straight victories, two of which were on the road, and has the Packers rolling right now. Meanwhile, Cam Newton is doing everything he can to keep Carolina afloat. This is a battle of two of the best quarterbacks in the game. Last time they played was Newton’s rookie year when he threw for 400 yards. I doubt he will hit that through the air but would not be shocked if his rushing plus passing numbers combine for that. Both offenses will score, but the lack of talent on Carolina’s offense and their defense looking on the downswing, versus the Packers bouncing back points to an eventual one sided affair. Rodgers and the Packers pull away, with Green Bay winning 42-27 over the Panthers.
Adams, & Cobb – All wide receivers with confidence. Jordy is always going grab a starting slot, but one of these two will be double digits. The other won’t be too far behind.
Eddie Lacy – If the Panthers play remotely close to how bad they’ve played lately, Lacy is good for over 100 yards and touchdown.
Kelvin Benjamin – All signs point to him playing this week, unless there is a last minute change
Both defense – though I doubt either is currently seeing play.
As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University