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NFL Carolina PanthersOakland Raiders

Panthers vs. Raiders NFL Week 16 Preview

Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers (5-9) and Oakland Raiders (4-10) are set to kick-off this Sunday at 1:00 PM EST in Charlotte, North Carolina.

If the autumn wind is a Raider, then it’s been yet another Indian summer for the Raiders as they head east to square-off against a surging Panthers squad.

The Panthers are surging in the sense that they have now strung together back-to-back wins and have seemingly forgotten about their offensive woes that plagued them for most of this season.

The Raiders on the other hand are coming off a week 15 win of their own, but that doesn’t hide the fact that they have struggled mightily this year trying to run the football. Oakland ranks 29th in the NFL averaging just under 90-yards per game; while the Panthers have just recently cracked the top ten, ranking 9th overall on the ground averaging just over 120-yards per game.

The Panthers have finally found their way in 2012 running the football, but on the flipside Oakland hasn’t found a way to get running back Darren McFadden going at all.

So, where does this leave this late season matchup of two unfamiliar foes?

Quite simply, the Panthers must stick to their offensive game-plan of allowing quarterback Cam Newton to play freely, attacking the Raiders with his legs and high-powered arm.

Defensively, Carolina must take any thoughts of running the ball out of Oakland’s mindset. Shutting down Oakland’s ground game early will force the Raiders to rely heavily on the passing game, which is exactly the direction Carolina wants them to go.

Both the Panthers and Raiders have very little to play for on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be short on entertainment. Look for these teams to play hard, delivering hard hits and big plays. It should be fun, the Panthers and Raiders only see each other once every four years.

Robert Kester, Rant Sports Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1