Winners of their last five games, people are starting to take a little more notice of the Carolina Panthers in the 2013 NFL season. Much to the surprise of people after the Panthers lost their first two games of the season, the Panthers now trail the New Orleans Saints by just a game in the division, which makes their matchup with the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football this week all the more important for Carolina.
Based on the recent history of these two franchises, there are probably some people that are already writing off the Panthers in this game and are thinking that this team is no match for Tom Brady and company. Looking at what both teams have done this season, though, the Panthers actually present a more than formidable challenge to the Pats.
To begin with, the Panthers’ defense is 100 percent legitimate. Their front-seven is one of the most underrated units in the league with their ability to stop the run and to get after opposing quarterbacks. As New England has derived a lot of their success this season on the ground, going up against the second-best rushing defense in the league is certainly going to cause problems.
More than that, though, the Panthers present major problems for the Patriots’ defense. The Panthers have been relentless running the football this season with a multi-headed rushing attack that features running backs DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert and a now healthy Jonathan Stewart in addition to, of course, quarterback Cam Newton. There’s certainly a reason that the Panthers are 10th in the NFL in rushing yards per game.
Carolina’s reliance on the run should serve them well in this contest as the Patriots’ run defense has been the polar opposite of the Panthers’ this season. New England is allowing 128.2 yards per game on the ground to opponents this season, the 30th ranked rushing defense in the league. That’s an extremely favorable matchup for Carolina.
Obviously this isn’t going to be a leisurely stroll to victory for the Panthers; their secondary has to step up and their offense can’t afford any mental errors. However, I’d venture to say that the Panthers don’t just have a chance in this game, but that the odds are probably in their favor. The case for them is only on paper, but you can’t deny that it’s a compelling case that’s made on paper.