Sunday, September 18, 2011

Packers vs. Panthers preview

It's less than three hours to kickoff between the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers as I write this, and a prediction needs to be made. Is there any doubt what that will be? No. The Packers will win this game. Not that it will be a cake walk, of course. After all, there is a rookie quarterback on the other side who put up record passing numbers in his debut last week. But that was against Arizona. Puh-leze.

The Packers have had the opportunity to see what he did and game plan for it. Given that Cam Newton was looking for WR Steve Smith most of the day, figure the Packers to focus on shutting Smith down and letting the other receivers -- which are whom, by the way? -- do whatever damage they might be able to do against the Packers' outstanding secondary. Now, that secondary may very likely be without Tramon Williams, who is still nursing a sore shoulder; he'll be a gametime decision, according to reports. Still, I'll take the Pack's d-backs against the Panthers' receivers any day of the week.

Granted, Newton has a bit of that Michael Vick aspect to him, where he can not only throw but can also run. He's athletic and a big body. That type of quarterback has been known in the past to offer problems for the Packers defense. But that was then, this is now. Occasionally, Newton may hit a long pass or even break containment and run for more yards than you'd like to see. But you have to figure that Dom Capers' defense will blitz Newton from every direction and contain him more often than not with the linebacking corps. If the defense can rattle him the Pack should be able to generate a turnover or two. Oh, T Jeff Otah is doubtful for the Panthers and if he can't go he will be replaced by rookie free agent Byron Bell. Packers LB Clay Matthews could and should have a field day.

When we look to the Panthers defense, it took a big blow last weekend when middle linebacker Jon Beason blew out an Achilles' tendon against the Cardinals. Beason was the leader of the defense and his loss is a big blow. Combine that loss with an average defense at best across all units and the Packers offense should have a big day. If Carolina blitzes, QB Aaron Rodgers will light them up. If they don't, perhaps we'll see the Packers' running game get going just to open things up downfield.

It should be a fun game to watch. Newton might put up some yardage but nowhere near like he did last week. Look for him to come down to earth a bit. The Packers offense should be ready to roll. If they did so against the Saints they can surely do so against the Panthers. The only way the Packers lose this game is if they beat themselves with turnovers or, more likely in this unlikely defeatist scenario, special teams breakdowns.

The Packers are 10-point favorites and the over/under is 45.5 points. My call is for the Packers to win 38-17.

Say it with me: it's great to be a Packers fan! Go Pack Go!!!