There are no guarantees about Sunday’s Green Bay-Carolina game, which pits teams with a combined 13-1 record in a game that has turned into one of the hottest regular-season tickets in Panthers history.
OK, there is one guarantee: For Panthers fans, it can’t be as bad as last year.
Let’s review four facts from Green Bay’s worse-than-it-sounds 38-17 win over Carolina at Lambeau Field in 2014:
1. The Packers led 21-0 in the first quarter before Carolina had a single first down.
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2. Luke Kuechly got kicked out of the game for elbowing an official he thought was another player trying to pull him off a pileup. Before that happened, though, Kuechly jumped offside and negated what would have been an early Roman Harper interception.
3. Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said after the game his offensive players had broken 13 attempted Panthers tackles – by halftime.
4. Carolina trailed 38-3 before scoring a couple of late touchdowns to make the final score sound a little better.
“If there was a mistake to be made that couldn’t be made, we made it,” Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said later. He also called the Panthers’ various errors “just a lot of stupid stuff.”
One of the Panthers’ few highlights from Green Bay’s 38-17 win over Carolina in 2014: Greg Olsen had eight catches for 105 yards.
So on Sunday, the Panthers will try to put a moratorium on “stupid stuff.” That goes double for jumping the gun on Aaron Rodgers’ infamous hard count, which he works to perfection like no other NFL quarterback. Last season the Panthers thought they were prepared for it – and then Rodgers got the defense to jump twice in the game’s first three minutes.
▪ This game rests on the shoulders of the Panthers’ defensive linemen more than anyone else. If they rush the quarterback as timidly and tiredly as they did in the fourth quarter against Indianapolis, Rodgers will tear them up.
▪ Prediction time. I jumped back on Carolina’s bandwagon last week, correctly choosing the Panthers to beat Indy. That puts me at 5-2 for the season picking Carolina games. I feel like this one will be much closer than last year, but ultimately I think Rodgers wins this game. My pick: Green Bay 24, Carolina 20.
Fowler: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @scott_fowler