The Panthers defense is coming off a decent game against the Colts, having only allowed 120 yards passing and 78 yards rushing. That game mainly came down to the offense and Bryce Young turning the ball over 3 times, two of which were pick sixes by Kenny Moore for the Colts. The Panthers defense only surrendered one touchdown and 2 field goals, a stat line that is typically enough to win a game if the offense does its job. Now, the Panthers roll into a short week against a rookie backup QB, let’s dive in.
- Get the pass rush going: The Panthers edge rushers have been taking injury hit after injury hit. Prior to last week’s game, Yetur Gross-Matos and Justin Houston were placed in injured/reserve, leaving that unit extremely thin outside of Brian Burns. This week, guess what? Brian Burns is out with a concussion! Great news! However, Marquis Haynes returned from practice this week after spending all of the regular season on IR, and he practiced fully every single day this week, and could look to make his return on Thursday. That return would be a welcome sight for an edge group that is currently led by DJ Johnson and Amare Barno, though I expect the Panthers to dip into their practice squad once again and elevate some players like Eku Leota to play significant snaps again. This defense is going to have to blitz to get some pressure, but Haynes returning to the lineup would alleviate that concern quite a bit, even if he’s not quite 100% yet.
- DJ Moore revenge game: With CB CJ Henderson out this week, the Panthers top corner is Donte Jackson, who is very familiar with DJ Moore after spending most of his career practicing against him. Moore’s season has come as a bit of a mixed bag (partly due to te injury to Justin Fields), with games ranging anywhere from 25 yards receiving to 230 in a given game. Without Fields the last 3 weeks, Moore has capped out at 55 yards max in a game and zero touchdowns. Still, this is very much a revenge game scenario for DJ Moore, and the Bears could and should try to get the ball in his hands early and often to help the offense move the football. The Panthers defense needs to key in on him since the rushing defense is a weak point so Evero can focus on trying to mitigate that.
- Speaking of the rush defense: A team going on a short week into Thursday Night Football has one thing that can help with that disadvantage of lack of preparation; running the football. And the Bears actually run the ball quite well, with 4.6 yards per rush on the season (6th in the NFL) and 135.3 (4th) per teamrankings.com. They run the ball close to 50% of the time, so this is a game where they can really capitalize on that if the game script goes their way. By comparison, the Panthers have allowed 4.4 yards per rush (25th) and 131.8 yards per game (28th). So this looks like the perfect marriage for the Bears to run all over the Panthers this week. However, in the weeks since the bye, Ejiro Evero has shown why he was a head coaching candidate in the 2023 offseason, as he’s put together some beautiful defensive gameplans despite the personnel deficiencies. This would be a great week to do that again, Evero.
What are you watching out for, Panthers fans?