When the New England Patriots take on the Carolina Panthers next Monday night, the game will resemble both teams’ Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl XXXVIII. While the Patriots are still the Patriots, the Panthers actually represent their past counterpart very accurately. Carolina has a ferocious defense and a running game that could wear any team down, similar to that of 2003. While Jake Delhomme is no Cam Newton, Newton is actually doing his best Delhomme impersonation by managing the game at a very high level.
The Patriots will have trouble with the Panthers even if they have solved their offensive woes. The Panthers are going to hit Tom Brady, like it or not. New England’s offensive line still has some name recognition to it, but it’s lacking in actual playing ability.
Super Bowl XXXVIII started out as a defensive struggle. Most of the first half included great defensive plays, sloppy offensive output and putrid kicking. With minutes remaining, lanes and holes started to appear. The outcome resulted with almost 700 yards passing. Both quarterbacks, Brady and Delhomme, passed for over 300 yards and threw three touchdowns apiece. The final score of the game was 32-29, Patriots.
This game isn’t going to exactly match the box score, but it will be played in similar fashion. I expect both teams to come out trying to strike with big plays and doing it unsuccessfully. The Panthers’ front seven will get to Brady until halftime when the Patriots can make adjustments to halt Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. Newton and his arsenal will have a rough start also due to the genuine genius of Bill Belichick.
After multiple halftime adjustments from both teams, look for Brady to click with his weapons while Newton does the same. If Brady can get a little bit of time in the pocket, look for Aaron Dobson to torch the questionable Carolina secondary. Greg Olsen might spurn the middle of the New England defense if Carolina’s read option attack can it get going.
I’m not saying this game is going to be an exact carbon copy of Super Bowl XXXVIII, but it will be eerily similar. The Patriots should defeat the Panthers by a score of 33-28.