The New England Patriots are 7-2 and coming off a Week 10 bye. Looking at the schedule at the beginning of the season, many people had a Week 12 matchup against the Denver Broncos circled and looked right past the Carolina Panthers. 10 weeks into the season, and the Patriots are set to play those Panthers, but this is a very different team than many anticipated earlier in the year.
The Panthers come in sporting a 6-3 record and have one of the best defenses in the league. They are riding high, coming off of a big win out west where they beat the San Francisco 49ers 10-9. The Patriots are notorious for being a very good team coming out of their bye week, which makes this matchup something that people cannot over look even with Denver coming up Week 12.
The Patriots, who had their coming out party against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9, will be tested against a defense that is ranked second in the NFL overall. They are not only a great run-stopping team, but they do well to pressure the QB and take away the passing game. It looks like Stevan Ridley is hitting his stride, and Tom Brady has looked better recently than he did early on.
Though the Broncos have a better record, the Panthers will be a different test for the Patriots due to their potent defense. Instead of the a shootout, this could be a low scoring game, which may not be a great thing for an injured and struggling Patriots defense that looks like they will have star CB Aqib Talib back for the first time since Week 6.
The Panthers’ offense has shown signs to be pretty good, and they have a good young QB in Cam Newton, but they lack weapons in the passing game and are still growing as an offense. The Patriots’ defense has not been great as of late, and will need to get back on track against the Panthers. The Patriots allowed 400 yards passing to Ben Roethlisberger and cannot allow Newton to have that much success against them.
With how good the Panthers’ defense has been, if they allow Newton and his offense to put up 24 or more points, the Patriots could be in trouble.
With many people overlooking this matchup until recently, the hope is that the Patriots did not overlook the Panthers in their bye week. Though many people are excited for the matchup against the Broncos in Week 12, this could be possibly be a tougher test for the Patriots. In years past, they have been good against teams with great offenses and middle-of-the-road defenses, but have struggled against teams with great defenses.
The best example of this over the past few years is their struggles with teams like the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets. The Panthers are a similar challenge in that they may not have the best offense in the world, but their defense is so good that if the Panthers can score 17 or more points, they could find a way to win.
This will be a great Monday night matchup and will be the first of back-to-back prime time games for the Patriots, who will be under the spotlight in the two biggest games remaining on their schedule.