The momentum of the Carolina Panthers season has seemingly reversed after a blowout of the New York Giants, only a week removed from being 0-2 and one loss away from firing their head coach. Most teams in the Panthers position would want to ride that momentum straight into the next week, but Week 4 is the Panthers’ bye week. While Panthers can’t use their momentum to immediately cream another team, they can still use the bye week to build on the improvements they made in Week 3 and fine-tune the adjustments that led to that success.
The most important thing for the Panthers to focus on during the bye week is continuing to open up the offense. Conservative play calling stagnated the Panthers offense in their first two games, turning Cam Newton into a traditional pocket passer and the rest of the offense into a Woody Hayes reboot. Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula opened up his playbook in Week 3 and utilized Cam Newton’s unique playmaking abilities through a number of designed runs and options, but not so many that it would become predictable. Shula timed his calls well against the Giants, and the element of surprise allowed those plays to turn into big yards instead of turnovers. Look for Shula to increase Newton’s option package over the bye, but don’t expect it to eclipse the power run game. DeAngelo Williams is third in the NFL in rushing, and he shows no signs of slowing down.
What will help the Panthers most following Week 3 is simply getting healthy. Charles Godfrey is out for the season, but Josh Thomas, Quintin Mikell and D.J. Moore could return soon. Thomas may have been able to play this week as he recovers from a concussion, but some extra time to heal will make sure that he plays on Week 5 and limits the chance of a recurring injury. Moore and Mikell on the other hand will need some time to heal from their knee and ankle injuries, respectively, and should still be questionable against the Cardinals. The Panthers will do their best to build upon their Week 3 success over the bye, whether actively or inactively, and hopefully it will continue to pay off.