I haven't forgotten about you Panther faithful! You'll need to forgive my absence from the blog the last two weeks or so, but the perfect storm of bad cold (read: flu), new job (yep, CSR isn't my only gig) and insanely busy social life (who'da thunk I have friends?) have converged to make this an insane time to say the least. I'm using my brief window of DayQuil clarity to give you a game preview before I slip back out of lucidness.
The Carolina Panthers have a very real opportunity to get back to back wins this week. They have a swagger following the win over Washington and Cam Newton was absolutely out of his mind at home last week. The offense are clicking on all cylinders, and as potent as Chud's offense is it can carry the Panthers to a win.
X-Factor: Jared Allen
Allen is a player I would always compare Julius Peppers to when I was frustrated with Pep's lack of performance. Whether Allen is on a poor team or not he's always giving 110% and doing everything he can to disrupt the opposing QB. In 2011 no defensive player has been more disruptive than Allen, and it's not even close. Think about this for a second: Jared Allen has 11.5 sacks so far... yes, you read that right and he's on pace for 26.5 on the season. He has the ability not only to batter QBs, but get inside their head too.
While Cam Newton has done very well to avoid pass rushers in the past, he still hasn't seen anyone like Jared Allen this season an it could very well lead to some ill advised passes. This is a situation where Cam has performed great, but Allen is the best in the NFL.
Carolina run offense Vs. Minnesota run defense
The Panthers are finally starting to put it all together when it comes to their running game. They have improved from being one of the worst in the NFL to being ranked 8th in the NFL and all the credit goes to Rob Chudzinski finally working out how to use double trouble. This week they see a stout Minnesota run defense that has kept their opponents to 87.9 yards per game, 4th best in the NFL.
While this stat looks very impressive it's important to look at their collection of opponents: Arizona, Detroit, Chicago, San Diego, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Green Bay. With the exception of Matt Forte and LeGarrette Blount there are five games in that schedule facing a team with a weak running game to begin with. This is a situation where the overall stat doesn't accurately portray reality. With the Panthers using option plays, and creative run formations I think it will keep the Vikings off balance.
Carolina pass offense Vs. Minnesota pass defense
Here's where you need to put a fork in them. The Vikings are in very real trouble when it comes to trying to stop Cam Newton and Steve Smith. Their 29th ranked pass defense is giving up 275 yards per game and the Panthers can definitely take advantage of this to abuse Minnesota's secondary.
The Vikings allowed Matt Cassel to look like a probowler again, Matthew Stafford to throw for almost 400 yards and they haven't been able to cover #1 receivers with Calvin Johnson and Dwayne Bowe having huge days against them. In this part of the game it could and will get very ugly if you're a Vikings fan.
We'll have the defensive preview up this afternoon.