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Panthers at Bears Key Matchups: Is a punt a good play?

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We take a look at the upcoming game in the windy city and which matchups could blow the outcome one way or another.

Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

This Sunday, the Carolina Panthers head up to Chi-Town to take on the Chicago Bears. The Panthers have had ten days to rest and game plan following the hard-fought loss against the Eagles last week. Let’s take a look at where the game could be won or lost this weekend.

Panthers running game vs Bears run defense

It is no secret that the Carolina Panthers have struggled to run the football outside of QB Cam Newton and the occasional jet sweep to WR Curtis Samuel. At the current rate, Jonathan Stewart might drop down to the second leading rusher in franchise history as he went backwards last week. A large reason for the lack of a run game has been the offensive line. Neither offensive tackle has been great at run blocking, and backup C Tyler Larsen has struggled the last few weeks. The possibility of getting Ryan Kalil back this week could help immensely against a Bears front that is middle of the pack at stopping the run.

Bears running game vs Panthers run defense

In one of the most surprising developments of this NFL season, a John Fox led football team likes to run the football. The Bears are currently third in the league in rushing yards per game, and with their two headed monster at runningback, that could pose a problem for the Panthers defense. While the Panthers are top five against the run this season, LB Luke Kuechly could miss this game while in the concussion protocol. Kuechly did return to practice this week, which is a step in the protocol, but he may be held out for precautionary reasons. If backup David Mayo starts at MLB, the Bears may be able to find some running room on Sunday. However, starting a rookie QB means the Panthers should be able to stack the box, especially is S Kurt Coleman returns to play the ball-hawking deep safety this defense sorely needs. Regardless, handling Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard will be a tall task.

P Pat O’Donnell vs P Michael Palardy

On September 24, 2017 Ron Rivera elected to punt on fourth and five from the Saints 35 yard line while behind in the second half. The last time a Panthers head coach elected to punt inside the opponent’s 35 yard line while losing in the second half? John Fox, on October 17, 2004, elected to punt while losing to the Eagles. At least that was 4th and 22 with a nearly insurmountable lead built by the Eagles late in the fourth quarter. You can find all that information here. My point is, both of these coaches subscribe to the “punt is a good play” mantra at times. So, expect both punters to get plenty of chances to show their stuff this weekend. I hope they both stretch really well before the game because, with these two coaches, we could see this game challenge for the record of most punts in an NFL game. Fun fact, that record was set in 1933, when the Giants and Bears totaled 23 punts. I know the Panthers used to have two kickers on the roster, but maybe these teams might want an extra punter on the squad in case one of these guys’ leg falls off.

Poll

Which matchup will have the bigger impact on the outcome on Sunday?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    The Panthers HBs actually getting past the LOS
    (160 votes)
  • 29%
    Slathering some Mayo on Howard and Cohen
    (75 votes)
  • 8%
    If your fantasy team has punters, start these guys
    (22 votes)
257 votes total Vote Now