Being so close to Halloween, this is the time I delve into horror movies, and catch up on the past year's best (and worst). There's that moment in most bad horror movies that you know the busty teen being followed is about to get eviscerated, and you're just waiting for the final moment. Normally you can see this from a mile away, and the killing isn't a huge surprise. So too, the busty Carolina Panthers offense is about to be put through the meat grinder by the masked-killer that is the Chicago Bears' defense. Let's call this for what is is: Carolina are going to get mauled.
Offensive X-Factor-- Is anything changing?
There is one wild-card to Sunday's game, and that is whether without Marty Hurney overseeing the team, with the fire both lit and stoked, whether Ron Rivera and his coaches will respond to having their jobs threatened. There have been no misgivings about their future, everyone know in the building that this is a ten game audition. If the coaching staff treats Sunday's game with the same sense of urgency, then perhaps we see a new-look offense, but the odds are against it.
A team can't simply reverse their fortunes in a week. There was one last chance to retool the team, and judging by the performance post-bye, that didn't happen.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends.
Carolina run offense Vs. Chicago run defense
Is this something we really need to explain? Okay, here goes nothing:
The Carolina Panthers are the 13th ranked running team in the NFL, stunningly. Despite their inability to run with regularity out of the read-option, they're still getting yards. However, this is largely due to Cam Newton. The running backs are pairing for 53 yards per game, an are having almost no impact.
Juxtapose this with the Chicago Bears. A defense so good at stopping the run they're only allowing 71.3 yards per game, second best in the NFL. Pair this with their athleticism at defensive end and linebacker, and you have a situation where Chicago can diffuse Newton's ability on the run. It will take a small miracle for Carolina to move the ball on the ground.
Carolina pass offense Vs. Chicago pass defense
The Panthers are the 19th ranked passing team in the league by yards, and the Bears are the 16th ranked pass defense-- but it goes beyond that.
Where Chicago have excelled is by mercilessly punishing any foolish quarterback who dares to place the ball in bad spots. They have a stunning 14 interceptions on the year, and have taken back five for touchdowns.
Cam Newton will be under pressure all day long-- a by-product of a battered, bruised, and struggling offensive line. When that happens you see Newton trying to do too much with his arm, get hapless with his passing, and ultimately fall in love with the idea of the 'big play'. This is something we saw in the late moments of Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys-- Newton needed to make prudent passes to move the chains, and instead took big shots down field going for the knockout blow. If he tries that against Chicago the defense will make him pay, and that is a little scary.