The Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs were very similar teams a year ago. Both teams made the playoffs, to the surprise of many, and both teams also relied heavily on their defense to win games. The two teams will also be sharing the same field this Sunday in week two of the preseason.
The biggest thing to watch for with Carolina is how long Cam Newton plays. The good news is that he has been medically cleared to play this week, but the Panthers haven’t announced whether or not he will suit up. Newton missed the first preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, as he is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery.
There aren’t many players as irreplaceable on offense as Cam Newton is for the Panthers. Carolina is asking him to carry one of the weakest supporting casts on his back.
The one ray of hope for the Panthers’ skill position players is Kelvin Benjamin. The Panthers’ first-round pick has impressed many all through training camp and made an acrobatic touchdown catch in the first preseason game. The Panthers will be looking for him and Cam to get some rhythm in this game.
Carolina will be looking for their offensive line to play better than they did against Buffalo. It’s pretty apparent that the offensive line isn’t going to be a strength of this team, but it just needs to be serviceable.
On defense, the Panthers appear to be headed for another good year. It was unclear how Greg Hardy would look coming off of his tumultuous offseason, but he answered a lot of those questions in the first game. The defense as a whole looked a lot like the same group that finished last season as the number two ranked unit in the NFL.
The Chiefs won their first preseason game 41-39 over the Cincinnati Bengals. Before you feel sorry for the defensive coordinators, it should be stated that there were four non-offensive touchdowns in this game.
One of those four touchdowns came from rookie De’Anthony Thomas, who returned a punt 80 yards for the score. The Oregon rookie will be the most-exciting thing to watch in this game because of his ridiculous speed. It will also be interesting to see all of the different ways that coach Andy Reid uses Thomas.
One of the most-interesting position battles for the Chiefs this preseason is among their quarterbacks. Alex Smith is the clear starter, but after that they have some real decisions to make. It appears that Chase Daniel should win the backup job, but Tyler Bray and fifth-round pick, Aaron Murray are also on the roster. Many saw Murray as a steal in the fifth round, but he only saw the field for kneel down duty in the first preseason game.
Much like the Panthers, the Chiefs defense appears to be inline to be the strength of the team. First-round pick Dee Ford has shown off his speed and figures to help bolster an already good pash rush.