The good times keep on rolling for the Carolina Panthers and after another solid win they sit at 6-0 on the season and another primetime matchup lies ahead with the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night.
The Colts were projected by many to be one of the favorites in the AFC and a possible Super Bowl contender with MVP-hopeful Andrew Luck leading the way. Needless to say that has not been the case so far.
Luck and the Colts have struggled their way to a 3-4 record with two of those wins coming from Matt Hasselbeck at the helm as Luck has dealt with a shoulder injury throughout this season.
The multiple hyped-up offseason moves that were made by the Colts’ front office have struggled and this team looks like one that has regressed rather than move forward as many experts believed they would.
The Panthers will be facing the Colts in what was supposed to be one of the tougher matchups on their schedule but has turned into a rather lopsided contest. This won’t be a game where Carolina can kick up there feet though.
Take a look at the three big things to watch for in this Monday night matchup.
The Panthers defense has been as rock solid as they come and have been a driving force for this team but the defensive line has had its up and down moments. At times they’ve been stellar and brought the pressure on key drives but other moments they can’t seem to get anything going and pressure becomes nonexistent. The Colts feature one of the shakiest offensive lines in the league and although they’ve only given up 15 sacks, getting to Andrew Luck and forcing him into hurried throws will be critical for this Panthers unit. Defensive tackle Kawann Short has been terrific this season and leads the team with five sacks and was recently named the Player of the Month for October and will need to feed off of his play from last week and provide pressure up the middle. On the outside, Carolina will need Jared Allen and Ryan Delaire to be a force around the edges. Expect Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis to come with the blitz on occasion as well as that has worked well in the past few games for the Panthers. Andrew Luck’s poor season can be attributed to his poor decision making and providing pressure will do that and allow the Carolina defensive backs to make the plays and turnovers they have become known for.
Getting the Run Game Going
It’s no surprise that the mantra of the Panthers’ offense is tough, hard-nosed running and that will absolutely need to be a goal for the team here. The Colts most recently gave up 183 total rushing yards to the New Orleans Saints with 143 of those coming from Mark Ingram. Coincidentally, the Panthers had a fantastic game on the ground in their last contest with Jonathan Stewart’s season high 125-yard day. Carolina will need to take advantage of this weak Colts defense overall but it should start with the run game. Stewart has been a steady contributor all season but as of late has turned up the production. The team should look to give Stewart a hefty amount of carries and go to him early and often to establish the running game which will then set Cam Newton up perfectly to execute the read option and his designed quarterback runs. Maybe more importantly though, it will open up the offense and allow Newton to make the key throws in the passing game to move the chains for the Panthers. Look for a heavy dose of Jonathan Stewart come Monday night.
Remain Calm, Cool, Collected
This Carolina team has been able to remain undefeated and win each week with the consistent force of their defense and the crucial play-making moments from the offense. The Panthers will need to keep doing what they have been to win this matchup and not allow an easily winnable game to get away from them. Defensively, they have been one of the best but even though Andrew Luck is struggling, he is always a threat and has the stable of weapons capable of putting up points in bunches. Josh Norman and Bene Benwikere will need to be at the top of their game to make sure that the quick, speedy Colts receivers don’t get away and create the big play. Offensively, the team will need to do what they’ve done the past six weeks; make the plays when they need to. The unit as a whole has not been the best and struggles at times to get things going but as long as they can manage their usual three to four steady methodical drives that end in points, this team should be in business.