Don’t look now, but the Carolina Panthers are coming for elite status in the NFC. At 6-3, these Panthers have now won five in a row and are playing incredible football on both sides of the ball. Next up? The New England Patriots and their now-healthy — for the most part — offense.
For New England, though, it’s not about their offense when it comes to winning the game. In part, yes, it is. The Panthers have arguably the best front seven in all of football and have played sound defense this year, but anytime you have Tom Brady, you’ve got a shot to put points on the board.
What I’d be worried about if I was New England is the offense of Carolina. New England’s defense is giving up over 128 yards on the ground each game, which is good for 30th in the league. On the Panthers’ side, they’re rushing for nearly 128 yards per game — good for 10th in the league.
Now with Jonathan Stewart back, joining Cam Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert, this Panthers’ back field features a four-headed monster with guys that can beat you each in their own way.
As a team, the Panthers have ran the ball about 22 times per game and have averaged four yards per carry on those runs. New England should be worried — very worried. Newton is playing the best football of his career passing-wise, but is making plays in the run as well when he needs to.
Carolina’s scheme on offense has given Newton the ability to be much more consistent, and more importantly, flat out efficient in his decisions. New England has only sacked the quarterback about three times per game this season, which means defensive line pressure is not where it needs to be to stop an offense like Carolina’s.
The number one key for New England is going to be to get pressure on Newton and having their defensive line play the best game they’ve played all year long. Brady is good enough to score 20 points on this defense, but will New England’s defense be able to hold Carolina under that number as well?