On paper Sunday's game has all the makings of a bonafide shellacking, but in the NFL strange things can happen. To me, this has all the hallmarks of a trap game for Green Bay. They should dominate the Panthers in all three phases of the game, and they should be able to handle them without much effort, but this can lead to complacency in even the most disciplined of teams.
Following their trip to Carolina the Packers are slated to head to Chicago to face the Bears in a game that could very well have huge playoff implications down the road, furthermore it's a rivalry game and both sides will be looking to make a statement. This slots the Panthers in nicely to be overlooked and underestimated, and that will give Carolina their best chance to win on Sunday. However, even if we're looked past this week the Panthers will need significant performances at numerous positions if they hope to pick up a win. This game will begin and end with the offense, because honestly I don't have a lot of faith that Carolina can hang with the Packers' offense, so they'll need to get the near 500 yards they had last week.
Green Bay's corners are good... really good. As it stands Tramon Williams (who would have been responsible for Steve Smith) is listed as 'questionable', but if Williams can go then Smitty won't get anything near the separation that he got from Patrick Peterson, who he torched last week.
Enter our two South Beach TE's to pick up the load. Last week vs. Arizona they combined for 129 yards receiving, and Greg Olsen almost scored a TD as he was ankle tapped inside the 10 yard line. From spending some time over at the Packers' blog this week there seems to be a sentiment that Green Bay struggle covering tight ends with regularity. Last week against New Orleans the Packers allowed TE Jimmy Graham to catch 4 passes for 53 yards and a TD. If Newton can lean of his TEs and Rob Chudzinski uses numerous double TE sets like he did last week it could help turn the table for Carolina.
More after the jump...
Carolina Panthers run offense vs. Green Bay run defense
Last week Carolina's run offense struggled. DeAngelo Williams was never able to get going, and Jonathan Stewart's best plays were erased by costly penalties. However, against New Orleans the Packers only allowed 3.65 yards per carry from the Saints' three headed monster of Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. That being said, the Panthers triumvirate is far more talented that the Saints running game.
The Panthers will fare better this week. Double Trouble are always slow starters, it's just the way they are and I'm sure Rob Chudzinski is still working out how to use them. Last week Darren Sproles gave the Packers fits catching passes out of the backfield, and I expect Mike Goodson to fill that role nicely. When it's all said and done though the Packers run defense is really, really good.
Carolina Panthers pass offense vs. Green Bay pass defense
This is a really hard area of the game to predict. A week ago this was simple: Packers dominate, and easily. However, after seeing Cam Newton and Steve Smith work together it's a little more muddy when we try and project how the passing game will fair. Even if Green Bay are without Tramon Williams they still have a very talented secondary.
The second element to this equation is the pass rush, which will be unlike anything Cam Newton has seen. I, for one am thankful he'll get to see such a complex defense this early in the season, it will be a good baptism by fire for the young QB. It really is astounding to see how comfortable Cam Newton is in the pocket this early in his career, and all week Chad Pennington (who called Sunday's game for Fox) has been marveling at how quickly Newton picked up on the Arizona blitzes. In the end though there's Clay Matthews; there's no way Byron Bell can handle him 1-on-1 and this means the Panthers have to commit more help to stopping him. It should be fascinating how this pans out, but I'll be thrilled if Cam does half as well against Green Bay as he did against Arizona.