If you are an NFL running back, this should be a good game in which to play. While most of the pregame headlines have involved Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton, the game may end up being decided by the likes of Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Stewart.
Green Bay has allowed the most rush yardage per game in the NFL – 154.5 per contest, which is awful and dead last in the league. Carolina, though, has allowed the two longest single runs in the league (89 and 81 yards). Opponents have averaged a startling 5.5 yards per rush, which is also dead last in the league. If there isn’t at least one 100-yard rusher in this game, it will be surprising.
• Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis have been Carolina’s best two defensive players this year, but neither of them yet has a fumble recovery or an interception. While their tackles have been money, their personal takeaways have been non-existent. If Carolina is to beat Green Bay, that’s going to need to change.
• Do you remember that Cam Newton’s career high in passing yardage came against Green Bay? It was only the second game of his NFL career. He threw for 432 yards vs. the Packers on Sept.18, 2011, but the Panthers lost anyway, 30-23. Carolina led 13-0 in what was Newton’s home debut before giving it all back, helped in part by Newton’s three interceptions.
That’s one place Newton has improved significantly. He only has two picks this season, albeit with 10 games to go. In his first three seasons, he had 12, 13 and 17 interceptions.
• The first time the Panthers ever played in Green Bay was memorable to all who were there, as I was. Carolina lost 30-13 in the NFC Championship Game to the Packers in the 1996 postseason, but what I remember most from that day is how cold it was. It was 3 degrees, and the wind chill was minus-17. The temperature Sunday is supposed to be around 50 degrees, with a chance of rain.
• It’s safe to say that no forecaster in America got the Carolina-Cincinnati exactly right – a 37-37 tie wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Like the Panthers themselves, I am a modest 3-2-1 predicting their outcome. I don’t like the matchup of Aaron Rodgers vs. a very mediocre secondary. My pick: Green Bay 33, Carolina 27.