Five fearless predictions for Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game at New England:
1. Tom Brady will go after Kevon Seymour
Brady is a master at looking for an opponent’s weakness and exploiting it, so expect him to test Seymour – starting for an injured Daryl Worley – early on. Seymour only played seven defensive snaps against Brady last season as a rookie with the Bills. But the second-year CB from Southern Cal, who came to Carolina via trade on roster cutdown day, could have his hands full vs. Chris Hogan and/or Brandin Cooks.
2. Mario Addison will have a strip-sack vs. Brady
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Patriots left tackle Nate Solder struggled vs. Saints DE Cameron Jordan two weeks ago, then allowed a big play in last week’s victory over Houston. Whitney Mercilus got around Solder with a start-and-stop move and popped the ball loose from Brady, whose fumble was returned by Jadeveon Clowney for a 22-yard TD. A fresh Addison, part of the rotation up front, will have too much speed for Solder and create a takeaway.
3. Panthers’ opening drive will be long ...
And end with a touchdown. Mike Shula has scripted terrific opening drives the past two weeks that took a ton of time off the clock, only to end in field goals. That won’t be the case Sunday. The Panthers again will establish the running game with Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey, setting up a play-action pass from Cam Newton to tight end Ed Dickson in the end zone.
4. Speaking of McCaffrey ...
The first-round pick from Stanford will score his first NFL touchdown – and it won’t be a cheapie. McCaffrey got loose for a long gain on a wheel route last week against the Saints, and he’ll find space vs. a Patriots defense that has given up big play after big play this season. McCaffrey will take a screen pass to the house after a big block by left guard Andrew Norwell.
5. Newton will be better, but ...
It won’t be enough. It’s hard to imagine the Panthers’ quarterback being worse than he was vs. New Orleans, when he telegraphed a couple of passes, made poor decisions and finished with three interceptions. Newton will have time to throw, and he’ll have his moments against a suspect defense. But the Panthers don’t have enough weapon to win a shootout with Brady. Patriots 31, Panthers 21.
Panthers at Patriots
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
FOX (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews)