One of the major story-lines headed into Sunday’s showdown is not Panthers quarterback Cam Newton vs. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
No, instead the return of former Panthers head coach John Fox to the city of Charlotte, a place he called home for nine seasons, for the first time since his departure after the 2010 regular season tops the headlines for most Panthers fans.
Fox was a popular head coach in Carolina all the way up until the Panthers decided to part ways with him subsequent to going 2-14 in 2010. Fox of course, wasted no time finding a new gig; becoming the Broncos head coach prior to the start of last season.
Fox’s return will serve as a nice sub-plot once the action begins on the field however.
The Broncos come into week 10 riding a wave of confidence from their last three games, all of which were wins. Manning seems to be growing more and more confident with the offense and his teammates, which doesn’t bode well for Carolina’s defense.
Carolina comes into this matchup riding their own wave of confidence. The Panthers have to be feeling good about their last two defensive performances where they racked up nine quarterback sacks. Their defensive hot streak must continue on Sunday when they face-off against arguably one of the top five quarterbacks in NFL history.
Though, too much defensive pressure from the Panthers will force the Broncos’ offense to run the football. In fact, look for Denver to run early and often Sunday. Broncos veteran running back Willis McGahee is having a nice season thus far with 620 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Carolina won’t be winning any awards this year when it comes to stopping the run and the Broncos know this. If the Panthers want to have another good day on defense, then expect them to rush three or four guys all afternoon long. Conservative blitzes could come back to burn the Panthers, but defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will expect his front-four to continue to make plays on the quarterback, as they have in their previous two games.
On the other side of the football, Newton and the Panthers’ offense must continue to get back to basics. Allow Newton to take shots down field and make plays with his legs, while at the same time lining-up and pounding the rock with running backs Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert.
The Panthers and Broncos should bring about an intriguing matchup to keep an eye on in week 10.
The Panthers made some positive traction in week nine, but the Broncos might be too much to handle at this point in the season.
Robert Kester, Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1