PHOTO: Carolina Panthers' Stephen Davis (48) runs past New Orleans Saints' Jay Bellamy (20) during the third quarter of the Saints' 23-20 win in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday Sept. 11, 2005. Davis had 81 yards rushing and one touchdown. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Preview: New England Patriots (1-0) vs Carolina Panthers (0-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
LOCATION: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
TV: CBS, Dick Enberg, Dan Dierdorf, Armen Keteyian
RADIO: National: Sports USA Radio, Eli Gold, Terry Donahue, Ari Wolfe; Local: WBCN 104.1 FM, Gil Santos, Gino Cappelletti
SERIES: This is the first time the Patriots and Panthers have met since Super Bowl XXXVIII, in which the Patriots won on an Adam Vinatieri 41-yard field goal with four seconds remaining, 32-29. That game saw little scoring early on, then fireworks in the fourth quarter with a total of 37 points scored between the two teams. Before that, the two had only met twice, including a Patriots home loss in 1995, the Panthers inaugural season. The Seahawks is the only team New England has played fewer times (1) than the Panthers over the past decade.
SEASON RANKINGS*: Panthers: offense 11th (8th rush, 16th pass); defense 8th (19th rush, 9th pass). Patriots: offense 8th (23rd rush, 4th pass); defense 17th (12th rush, 21st pass) * in yardage
KEYS TO THE GAME: While the Panthers may be closer to having the both their offense and defense running on all cylinders, the Patriots' engine is already operating as a well-oiled machine.
Carolina, looked impressive at times in their Week 1 loss to New Orleans, but costly mistakes (four turnovers), ultimately gave the Saints the victory. New England had it's own troubles with penalties early, but overcame them to beat the Raiders in their season opener. The Patriots also didn't allow a sack or turnover.
If the Panthers can clean up their act at home this week, the Patriots could be in trouble. Carolina presents some tricky matchups for New England, which Belichick called "difficult to defend" and "kind of unusual."
The Patriots offense is far from being considered devastating, or even elite. Running back Corey Dillon only rushed for 63 yards on 23 carries last week, which is on the low end of the performance spectrum expected out of him and his offensive line. The positive is that the line kept the Raiders defense from getting to Brady last week and executed well in getting Dillon in for the score in two goal line situations. Look for more of a running game with well-timed passing from New England this week to counter Carolina's strengths and exploit their weaknesses.
The Patriot defense allowed Raider QB Kerry Collins to throw three touchdowns last week. Carolina's receivers are not as deep as Oakland's, so this game should not be as high scoring as last week. It's hard to pick against a New England team that has lost a total of four regular season games over the past 33, but if the Pats are going to stumble this season, Charlotte might be the place.
FAST FACTS: Panthers: Carolina linebacker Vinny Ciurciu played at Boston College, where he was a teammate of Dan Koppen from 2001-2002. The Panthers either scored or turned the ball over so many times in Week 1 that they only punted the ball once for 35 yards. No one on the current Carolina roster has suited up for New England before. Patriots: New England CB Tyrone Poole is the only Patriot who is also a former Panther. Poole played in Carolina from its first season as a franchise in 1995 until 1997. With 481, WR Troy Brown only needs nine catches to pass former TE Ben Coates for second on New England's all-time receptions list. Former WR Stanley Morgan is the franchise leader with 534 for an unprecedented 10,352 yards (nearly twice as many yards as Coates or Brown). Kevin Faulk needs 3 catches to make it into the top 10 on that list himself. QB Tom Brady's next touchdown pass will be the 100th of his career. He could be the fourth Patriot to achieve that milestone.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think there's some familiarity with them, but sometimes the schemes change and the players change. They're doing some different things and we're doing some different things. We've got new players out there. It's different. Like I said, the thing that you take from it is how tough it's going to be. They hit me all day. We got the ball off, but they were coming. They're very fast and physical. It's one of the toughest defenses we'll face." - QB Tom Brady on playing the Panthers for the first time since Super Bowl XXXVIII.
PREDICTION: 17-13, Patriots
Panthers: OUT: DT Kris Jenkins - knee; PROBABLE: DT Jordan Carstens - ankle; S Marlon McCree - thigh; LB Brandon Short - foot; CB Dante Wesley - ribs; QB Jake Delhomme - infection; QB Chris Weinke - back.
Patriots: QUESTIONABLE: LB Tully Banta-Cain - knee; WR Andre' Davis - foot; T Brandon Gorin - thigh; DE Jarvis Green - DE; WR Bethel Johnson - thigh; DE Richard Seymour - thigh; S James Sanders - ankle; CB Duane Starks - thigh; CB Tyrone Poole - ankle; CB Chad Scott - shoulder; PROBABLE: QB Tom Brady - shoulder.
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