Stampeding over the Broncos

In week one the Panthers got thumped by Green Bay at home, but went on to an impressive win at Kansas City. After a week 3 bye they played Atlanta in a defensive game, but a +3 turnover margin by the Carolina offense caused another loss at home. The good news is Carolina is back on the road. The bad news is their opponent; the Denver Broncos are at home.<br><br>

Denver is extremely good at Invesco Field at Mile High. In fact they have the best home record in the NFL in the last 30 years at 175-59-1 (.747). Their new QB Jake Plummer has 524 yards and 4 TD's in three games at home vs. 338 and one passing TD in two road games. These stats are important because Carolina is 29th in the league in stopping the run. That is one stat that "I don't pay attention to stats" coach John Fox is very aware of. Coach Fox's mantra since becoming the Panthers head coach is to run on offense and stop the run on defense.

The Panthers are not even sure who they'll be trying to stop. Starter Quentin Griffin is nursing a sprained ankle and is listed as questionable. Behind him is Reuben Droughns who if Griffin can't go will get the bulk of the carries according to Denver Coach Mike Shananan. Don't forget about rookie Tatum Bell either, who this week said "This is about the healthiest I've been since I've been here." Throw in the fact the Atlanta offensive line Coach Alex Gibbs used to coach in Denver and the Broncos still run those same types of run plays that Atlanta ran the Panthers last week and Carolina will have to step up their defense. Even with all these possible running backs and Denver's ability to seemingly put any back behind their offensive line and make it work one can fully expect to see Carolina focus on the Bronco's running attack and try to shut it down.

Every advantage seems to create a disadvantage in the NFL and bringing the safety down to help stop the run will really create a test for the Carolina corners. This game is going to be a big test for Chris Gamble. Sure, he's got the speed and the talent but he's only a rookie. Can he handle being left on an island with Rod Smith or Ashley Lelie?

On the flip side expect Moose to have his hands full as he's going to be guarded by star cornerback Champ Bailey. Look for Colbert and Proel to move the chains while Delhomme tries to recover from the Atlanta game where he threw 2 interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. If Carolina can lull the Bronco defense to sleep with the run Delhomme may be able to throw the ball deep for some big yardage.

"They do a lot of things, and they do a lot of things well," Delhomme said. "They get up in your face and play some man- to-man, and the linebackers can really run. They are pretty impressive to watch on film."

While there seems to be a lot going against the Panthers,they do have a number of bright spots. The brightest spot is the possible return of starting tailback Stephen Davis. "He looked good," said Fox. "He moved around good. He is going to be day-to-day whether he is active for the game. Right now, he is listed as questionable, and we're going to take it one day at a time. We'll see what kind of effect (practice) has on it and we'll look at it from there."

Davis really symbolizes what the Panthers are all about, pounding the run. Unless they get down early there will be a heavy dose of Stephen along with future star running back Deshaun Foster.

Can the Panthers get back on track? There are a lot more questions about the Panthers than there are about Denver, but in the NFL there's a sure fire way to answer almost any question.

Fowler's Prediction: Win. Carolina 27, Denver 24

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