There may not be a player more important to this Carolina Panthers' offense not named Cam Newton than Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers have found tremendous success with their run game over the first part of the season, averaging 144 rushing yards per game, which is best in the NFL.
The Panthers have leaned heavily on Stewart this year,he is averaging 18 carries a game, but it is only recently that he has found some success with the carries. Over the first four games of the year, Stewart averaged 55 rushing yards per game but that total has jumped to 95 rushing yards per game over the past three weeks.
The Packers' defense has struggled to stop the run this year, currently ranked 25th in the NFL and have been giving up 124 rushing yards per game. If Stewart is able to get it going early it will help the Panthers control the clock and more importantly keep Aaron Rodgers off the field.
It is looking likely that the Panthers' are going to be without Andrew Norwell for at least this week, and possibly longer, with a hamstring injury that coach Ron Rivera described as "a pretty good one." This means that Amini Silatolu should be in line to be the starter at left guard against the Packers and he has big shoes to fill.
Silatolu started last year as the team's starting guard but when he went down with an injury of his own, he lost the job to Norwell. Since then Norwell has played tremendously and was a key reason for the turnaround by the offensive line.
This game on Sunday will be a great opportunity for Silatolu to showcase himself and prove that he can still start in this league. The former second-round pick could be a major factor in whether or not Stewart is able to get going by providing him running lanes in the middle of the field.
Ted Ginn Jr.
On Sunday, Ted Ginn Jr. could be in line for a redemption type game after an awful performance on Monday night against the Colts. He finished the game with only two receptions even though he was targeted 10 times for 60 receiving yards.
The biggest issue from the game against the Colts was certainly the drops, which he had two of. That brings his total up to seven drops on the season, according to Sporting Charts, which is tied for the second highest total in the NFL.
The Panthers wide receivers are certainly having a tough season, especially with the absence of Kelvin Benjamin, but they have to stop beating themselves. Ginn Jr. has done an excellent job of getting open this season as opposing defensive backs have had trouble staying with the speedy wide receiver. However, these drops are mental mistakes that this offense can't afford to have as they continue to play close games.