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Panthers at Packers defensive preview: The unstoppable force meets the very movable object

The Panthers lowly defense has to face the best offense in the league under the bright lights of Saturday night.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers did not have a good time against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, particularly in the passing phase. Drew Lock, who has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league this season, torched the Panthers for 280 yards and four touchdowns on 10.4 yards per pass attempt. They did better running the Broncos ground game, but that didn’t stop the Broncos from scoring four touchdowns in the final five drives in which they actually tried to move the ball.

Up next for the Panthers is the Green Bay Packers, who are decidedly not the Denver Broncos. According to Football Outsiders, they have the most efficient offense in the league. They average 6.6 yards per play and are dangerous both on the ground and through the air. Aaron Rodgers might be the frontrunner for MVP with 3,685 yards and a league leading 39 touchdowns to only four interceptions. His top target, Davante Adams, already has 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns. Running back Aaron Jones is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and is on pace for a 1,000 yard season in 14 games.

In short, the Packers offense is very good.

The Panthers defense is definitely not good, which makes this a match-up between the unstoppable force and a very movable object. The Packers offense is virtually unstoppable, and the Panthers defense hasn’t really stopped anybody but the Lions this season.

So if you couldn’t tell from all those sunshine and rainbows, we probably shouldn’t expect Saturday night’s game to go well for the Panthers. For it to go well, the Panthers need to do well in areas that they haven’t done well all season against a team in which no teams do well in those areas. Here are those areas:

  • Get Aaron Rodgers on the ground. The Panthers have actually improved their anemic pass rush as the season has gone. They’re up to 19 sacks on the season, which is tied for 27th in the league. So while better than last, they’re still bad. As for the Packers, Rodgers has been sacked 13 times in 13 games. Only Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked less among quarterbacks that have started all of their teams games.
  • Get off the field on 3rd down. The Panthers are 31st in the league in 3rd down defense, allowing opponents to convert 50.6% of their 3rd downs into 1st downs. The Packers offense is just about as efficient as Panthers opponents on the whole. They convert 49.7% of their 3rd downs, second best in the league. During their current three game win streak, they’ve converted on 55.9% of 3rd downs. They might convert all of them on Saturday night.
  • Force Aaron Rodgers into a turnover or two. The Green Bay Packers (read: Aaron Rodgers) have thrown just four interceptions all season. Rodgers has been extraordinarily good at protecting the ball for his entire career, and it’s been especially true this season. On the other side of the ball, the Panthers have been one of the worst teams at picking off opposing passers. They’ve registered just five interceptions on the season, more than only the Eagles and Texans. The last time they picked off a pass was October 29th against the Falcons. They have been the best team in the league when it comes to recovering fumbles, but the Packers don’t fumble that much either.

In short, the Panthers defense will be completely outmatched in Lambeau Field on Sunday. That’s okay though. Now we can watch the game with no expectations.