Five fearless predictions for Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game at Los Angeles:
1. Cam Newton will draw a roughing the passer penalty.
The reigning league MVP created a stir last week by ripping officials and saying he doesn’t feel safe in the pocket. Referee Terry McAulay’s crew ostensibly will be on high alert for potentially illegal hits on Newton. And the Rams – like all of Jeff Fisher’s teams – will push the envelope by going after Newton up to and after the whistle. One of them will draw a flag and assure ...
2. There will be at least one fight.
There were several when these teams played in 2013 – not to mention seven personal fouls, including five on the Rams. One matchup to check out is Panthers right guard Trai Turner vs. Pro Bowl DT Aaron Donald, who was ejected from a Week 1 loss at San Francisco for unnecessary roughness and making contact with an official. When asked if he would protect Newton from any questionable tactics by the Rams, Turner said: “And myself.”
3. Carolina will hold Rams running back Todd Gurley under 50 yards.
That’s what defensive end Wes Horton predicted this week, and the Panthers defense will back him up. Behind an ineffective offensive line, Gurley has struggled through a sophomore slump after his 1,100-yard, Offensive Rookie of the Year season in 2015. Carolina’s defense seemed to figure things out last week against Arizona, limiting David Johnson to 24 yards and sacking Carson Palmer eight times. Luke Kuechly, Kawann Short and the rest of the front seven will stack the box and dare Case Keenum to beat them. He won’t.
4. Jonathan Stewart will grind out 75 yards.
The Rams have a tough front seven, spearheaded by Donald, middle linebacker Alec Ogletree and defensive end Robert Quinn, who leads the NFL with 18 forced fumbles since 2012. Meanwhile, the Panthers offense has clicked since Jonathan Stewart returned two games ago. Stewart was given most of the week off after he carried 44 times for 180 yards vs. New Orleans and Arizona. The physical Rams will make Stewart earn each of his yards.
5. The Panthers will pick off Case Keenum twice.
Keenum is coming off a four-interception game against the Giants in London two weeks ago. The journeyman quarterback, who for some reason is still starting ahead of Jared Goff, has thrown 10 interceptions, more than anyone other than Ryan Fitzpatrick. Three of those picks have been returned for touchdowns. The Panthers won’t score on defense, but one of their interceptions will set up a score. Panthers 30, Rams 17.
Panthers at Rams
L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles
Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
FOX (Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver)