Carolina Panthers

Panthers scouting report: Defense must find a way to pressure Packers’ Aaron Rodgers

A scouting report on the Carolina Panthers and the Green Bay Packers, who meet Sunday at Lambeau Field as the Panthers look for a big statement win.

WHEN THE PANTHERS PASS THE BALL ...

Kyle Allen could have an opportunity here. Although the Panthers quarterback has thrown interceptions in consecutive games for the first time in his career, he did make some good decisions against the Titans and had his third two-touchdown game. The Packers defense has eight interceptions, tied for sixth-most, but the Panthers offense may receive a bit of a break as Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander and safety Adrian Amos are both questionable for Sunday. However, accuracy has continued to be an issue for Allen, who may pay for that in Green Bay. He has completed under 55 percent of his passes in the past two games. Opposing passers against the Packers have completed 62.5 percent of their passes (10th lowest in the NFL).

Advantage: Packers

WHEN THE PANTHERS RUN THE BALL ...

How have the Panthers won games this year? By getting big performances from Christian McCaffrey. Green Bay has given up the ninth-most rushing yards per game (127.7) and allows 4.73 yards per carry (eighth-most). There is no reason that McCaffrey, who said he’s good to go despite appearing on the injury report, should have a big game. Not only is he the league’s leading rusher in yards per game, but he also has scored the most rushing touchdowns (10). The Packers have given up 10 rushing touchdowns this season (tied for third-most).

Advantage: Panthers

WHEN THE PACKERS PASS THE BALL ...

Although Aaron Rodgers is coming off his worst game this year, he has still had an impressive season. He has thrown just two interceptions and 17 touchdowns. The Panthers defense has had success when it is able to generate pressure and then create turnovers. All five of Carolina’s wins have featured at least two takeaways. That is going to be much harder to accomplish against Rodgers, especially if cornerback James Bradberry — who has had a strong season — is unable to play. Getting pressure on Rodgers will be key. The Panthers lead the NFL with 34 sacks, the most by any Carolina team through the first eight games. But the Packers get the ball out quickly and have only allowed 20 sacks (tied for 19th). Whether or not the Panthers are able to generate pressure on Rodgers will go a long way in deciding this game.

Advantage: Packers

WHEN THE PACKERS RUN THE BALL ...

The Panthers have allowed just two 100-yard rushers this season, including Tevin Coleman in the blowout loss to the 49ers. That number shouldn’t change this week. The Packers only average 95.3 rush yards per game (22nd). Aaron Jones can be a dynamic player — he had 226 scrimmage yards against the Chiefs two weeks ago — but hasn’t had consistent success on the ground. The key for Carolina has been to get ahead early, so opponents have not been running the ball as much. Last week, the Titans were able to run the ball some with Derrick Henry in the second half, but it was too little too late. Jones and Jamaal Williams will only be an issue for the Panthers if they are losing by a lot early.

Advantage: Panthers

SPECIAL TEAMS

Joey Slye has had plenty of issues for the Panthers as of late. He has made just 5-of-10 field-goal attempts in his past four games. All of those have come from 40-plus yards. Due to the cold weather at Lambeau Field, the distance he will kick from will be limited even more. Packers kicker Mason Crosby, however, has missed just one field goal this season (12 of 13). Although Slye did say he would like his opportunity to hit a game-winner, the Panthers will hope this game doesn’t come down to field goals.

Advantage: Packers

COACHING

This is possibly the most interesting area to compare. Packers first-year coach Matt LaFleur has led Green Bay to a 7-2 start. He’s the first NFL coach to win seven of his first eight games since Jim Harbaugh with San Francisco in 2011. This will be LaFleaur’s first big test as the Packers are coming off a surprising loss to the Chargers. It will be an interesting opportunity for veteran Ron Rivera, as well. Last time the Panthers had a “prove-it” game on the road, they were blown out by the 49ers. With a far more experienced coach leading the way, the Panthers has a chance to show that they can compete against the top teams in the NFC.

Advantage: Panthers

PREDICTION

With Cam Newton on injured reserve, the offense is fully in the hands of Allen and McCaffrey. The problem for the Panthers will be if the Packers are able to get an early lead. Carolina has not won a game this year that it has been losing at halftime. Not only will Green Bay be trying to prove something coming off its loss to the Chargers, but also Rodgers at home with an early lead is incredibly dangerous. If the Panthers are down, they will not be able to run the ball with McCaffrey as much as they would like, and Allen will have to take control, which did not work out well in San Francisco. The Panthers will have a hard time creating pressure and getting the short fields for Allen. Carolina has learned from the loss in San Francisco, but Rodgers will guide Green Bay to a win.

Packers 27, Panthers 17

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