- Run the ball, Run the ball, and Run it again
- Don’t turn the ball over
The Carolina Panthers are coming off their best game on the ground, thanks in large part to Cam Newton and the read option. This week the offense has a great chance to really get the ground game going with the return of Jonathan Stewart to the starting lineup and the fact they are facing the worst run defense in the NFL.
The Green Bay Packers are giving up on average 154 yards per game on the ground and this has to be the focus of the Panthers’ offense on Sunday. If they are able to effectively run the ball it should open up their entire offense, allow them to control the clock and more importantly keep Aaron Rodgers on the sideline.
When the Panthers do call passing plays, which if the run game is working should be play action passes, Newton will need to focus on ball security and not turn it over. Up to this point in the season, Newton has done a good job in this category with only two interceptions. However, he is facing a Packers defense that is very good at forcing turnovers (2nd in the NFL) and will capitalize on any mistakes Newton makes.
- Pressure Aaron Rodgers
- Limit Explosive Plays
It is no secret that the success, or lack thereof, of the Packers offense falls squarely on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers. He is the engine that drives this offense and it will be the Panthers defense responsibility to stop him. The best way to do this is to get constant pressure on him and make him as uncomfortable in the pocket as possible.
The Packers do not have a strong offensive line, missing a few players due to injury, and Rodgers has paid the price. He has been sacked 15 times so far this season, which is fourth most in the NFL. If there was ever a game for rookie Kony Ealy to have a breakout game, this would be it.
The other key to this game is to limit explosive, or the big, play. The Panthers defense has struggled this year in this category. According to Sporting Charts, the Panthers have given up 31 big plays (which is defined as a passing play greater than 25 yards and a rushing play greater than 10 yards) through the first six games.
This is not a good stat to have considering they are going up against two of the best wide receivers in the league in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Both have the speed to stretch the field and turn a routine short slant or crossing route into a huge play.
The best way to contain these two wide receivers, which brings me back to the first point, don’t give Rodgers time to throw the ball. This is a good Packers offense but with their struggles along the offensive line, they are not the dominant force they were a few years ago.