Panthers’ Run Offense vs. Packers’ Run Defense
The saying “You are only as strong as your weakest link” applies to this matchup as the Panthers, with the 28th ranked rushing attack, will face off against the Packers, who has the 32nd ranked rushing defense.
The Panthers have been decimated by injury at the running back position this year, which has played a major role in their inability to run the ball. The team right now only has two players with over 100 rushing yards on the season. Cam Newton is one of those players with 149 rushing yards this year however 107 of them came just last week against the Bengals.
The return of Jonathan Stewart who has missed the majority of the season and only has 29 carries on the season. He couldn’t come back for a better matchup with the Packers struggling against the run this year, giving up over 150 yards per game. If Newton and Stewart can establish the run game early, Carolina has to feel good about their chances because it will help keep Aaron Rodgers on the sideline.
Panthers’ Secondary vs. Packers’ Wide Receivers
This is one matchup that looks to heavily favor the Green Bay Packers as they have two of the best in the game today with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Through the first six games, these two have combined for 72 receptions, 963 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Panthers secondary on the other hand is coming off one of their worst performances of the season. Against the Bengals, the Panthers gave up 323 passing yards and this against a wide receiver group without A.J. Green.
If there is a reason to cut the Panthers some slack it would be that they were extremely short-handed against the Bengals with both Josh Norman and Bene Benwikere out due to injuries. Norman has returned to practice this week, on a limited basis, and there seems to be a chance he may play Sunday. This would be a huge boost for the Panthers defense as they try to find a way to contain two excellent wide receivers.
Last week against Cincinnati was the Carolina Panthers’ offensive line best game of the season, specifically for the team’s starting tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, prior to Week 6 Byron Bell had a season rating of -15.2 and Nate Chandler had a rating of -9.2. Against the Bengals, both tackles received positive ratings from Pro Football Focus with Bell getting a 1.3 and Chandler a 1.8.
This week they face two quality pass rushers, one of whom is a former Carolina Panther that will be sure to give them a good test. At 34 years of age, Julius Peppers is not the feared pass rusher he once was however he is still good enough to get to the quarterback and has 1.5 sacks on the year. One the other side of the formation is Clay Matthews, who has 51 sacks in his six-year career.
This will certainly be one of the key matchups to watch on Sunday. If Newton is given time to evaluate the defense from the pocket without Matthews or Peppers in his face, the offense should be very successful against this Packers defense.