KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Natural grass
TV: FOX, Spero Dedes, Steve Beuerlein
PREDICTION: Panthers 31-27
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jaguars have handed the keys to rookie QB Blaine Gabbert. He has the luxury of leaning on RB Maurice Jones-Drew, off to the best start of his career, and stares down a defense allowing 29.5 points and 295 passing yards per game. Fellow rookie QB Cam Newton has been the total package: accounting for all five Panthers touchdowns and leading the team in rushing and passing with 925 combined yards. The Jaguars can slow Newton by getting consistent pressure. He's been sacked eight times and is dealing with a slight ankle injury. The risk -- he's fast and has shown uncanny accuracy on the move.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
The Jaguars aren't ready to change their offense for rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
"We're a run first team," offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said Thursday. "To be successful, we need to run the ball. That's no secret to them, either. We're going to try to run it and they're going to try to stop the run."
He added, "We're running the same offense we'd be running against Carolina no matter who the quarterback was."
The Jaguars come into the game with the sixth-best rushing offense in the first two games while Carolina ranks 26th overall on defense, 19th against the run. And their two best linebackers, Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, are out for the year.
Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew is off to his best two-game start with 185 yards.
And Koetter thinks he abandoned the run too early against the Jets.
"We weren't that far behind midway through the third quarter, still like 15-3. We were running the ball OK. As a play-caller, I probably should have ran the ball a little bit more at that point. We should have run the ball more late first (quarter), second and early third," he said.
On the first drive of the third quarter, Jones-Drew ran for 16 yards on first down and then McCown threw three consecutive incomplete passes, including a 3rd-and-1 pass to Jones-Drew.
On their second drive, Jones Drew ran for 10 yards on first down but then was thrown for a three-yard loss.
That put them in an obvious passing situation at 2nd-and-13 and McCown then threw two more incomplete passes and the Jaguars punted.
The Jets then drove 92 yards for the touchdown that made it 22-3. The Jaguars then had to throw and McCown was intercepted twice and the game and McCown's time as the starter was over.
Some fans aren't happy with the Jaguars' run-first offense, but Koetter said a coach has to play to the strengths of his players. Koetter did say the offense is likely to change as Gabbert gets more experience.
"As he plays more, we'll do things that tailor to him, but right now we're just going to run the things we think are best against Carolina," he said.
Coach Jack Del Rio indicated the passing game may be helped by the fact they won't be playing against the Jets defense.
"Maybe not having (Darrelle) Revis and (Antonio) Cromartie covering our guys all day might help our pass game a little bit. I know that somebody else (Jason Hill said last week the Jets were overhyped) had a different opinion about Revis, but he's pretty darn good," Del Rio said.
Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams believes that once defenses begin to respect rookie quarterback Cam Newton a little more and begin dropping more safeties into coverage things will open up in the run game.
"I do, or they're just going to be stubborn and he's going to keep torching them," Williams said. "We'll see."
Williams has just 43 yards on the ground in two games.
However, that hardly means he's concerned about the team's perceived lack of production in the running game.
"I don't think there's an issue with the running game," Williams said. "We're not the offense that a lot of people are accustomed to seeing. It's not run, run, pass. That's no longer our philosophy here and I'm sure that's evident in the first (six games)."
Williams doesn't seem to mind.
"I've stated before I don't care whether we run the ball or pass the ball as long as we win I'm fine with it," he said. "But I think we're going to click whenever that game comes when we need to run the ball a great deal and they need to lean heavy on us (running backs). I think that game is coming."
Williams also views the short passes to the running backs - there were 12 of those last week -- as an extension of the running game.
"Hey, our ultimate goal is to score touchdowns and however that's done, it's done," Williams said.
--DE Aaron Kampman did not practice Wednesday and Thursday and has already been ruled out of the Carolina game. He is recovering from a torn ACL.
--WR Kassim Osgood did not practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a hamstring injury and may not play at Carolina.
--CB Derek Cox, who missed the Jets game with a rib injury, participated in the entire practice Wednesday and Thursday and the Jaguars expect him to play at Carolina.
--WR Maurice Jones-Drew was limited in practice Wednesday. but it wasn't injury related. He usually doesn't see much time in practice on Wednesdays. He participated fully in practice Thursday and will play.
--CB Rashean Mathis was limited in practice but it wasn't injury related. He doesn't usually see much time in practice on Wednesdays. He participated fully in practice Thursday and will play.
--WR Jason Hill was limited in practice with a hip injury Wednesday and Thursday after missing the Jets game and it is uncertain if he will play in Carolina.
--FB Greg Jones was limited in practice Wednesday but it wasn't injury related. He usually doesn't see much time in practice on Wednesdays. He did full-time work in practice Thursday and will play.
--DT Tyson Alualu was limited in practice Wednesday with a knee injury. He participated fully in practice Thursday and figures to play Sunday in Carolina.
--TE Marcedes Lewis was limited in practice Wednesday after missing the Jets game with a calf strain but did full-time duty Thursday and figures to play in Carolina.
--G Jason Spitz was added to the injury report Thursday as limited with a quadriceps injury.
--CB Chris Gamble tweaked his ankle in practice Thursday, but coach Ron Rivera said it's not serious and Gamble should be ready for Sunday's game.
--RT Jeff Otah missed last week's game with a concussion, but is expected to play this week. He has practiced full all week.
--WLB James Williams will start for the Panthers in place of Thomas Davis. He started two games last season before tearing his ACL.
--QB Cam Newton has practiced all week despite a sore ankle. He said Wednesday his ankle felt "luscious."
--S Charles Godfrey was the only player that did not practice Thursday. He remains out with a concussion.
--SS Jordan Pugh will start Sunday if Charles Godfrey isn't able to play. Pugh has struggled in pass coverage this season.