Sunday, October 19, 2014

Week 7: Packers vs. Panthers Preview and Prediction

After a nailbiter last weekend in Miami, with the Green Bay Packers pulling out a 27-24 win over the Dolphins in the final seconds of the game to squish the Fish, the Packers today play host to the Carolina Panthers and one of the most dangerous players in the league, Cam Newton.

What do we look for today? Packers QB Aaron Rodgers should have a big day against a porous and aging Panthers secondary. The front seven for Carolina can and likely will present challenges to the Pack, but as fast as Rodgers gets the ball out of his hands, he and the Pack's talented receiving corps should rack up yardage and points.

It would help, of course, if the Packers could once again get their running game going. Eddie Lacy had 14 carries for just 40 yards in the game against the Fins. James Starks provided a much-needed spark late in the game and particularly in the game-winning drive. We may see a similar rotation today unless the offensive line can create enough push for Lacy to get up a head of steam. Starks provides a different running style for the defense to worry about and head coach Mike McCarthy has apparently figured out if Lacy isn't making it happen there's another very good back available who just might do so.

On the opposite side of the ball, the Packers defense has two things to worry about: Cam Newton and Cam the runner, one the passer.

With limited offensive weapons, Carolina has resorted to running a read-option type offense. Newton, at 6'5" and 245 pounds, has a strong arm and strong legs. If he has someone to throw to, he can rack up the passing yards. Today, however, especially given the Packers well-known troubles stopping an option-style offense, I'd expect to see Newton run often. Until the Packers defense shows they can contain a running quarterback -- whether it be Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, or, today, Cam Newton -- they will always be tested early and often.

The Packers defense has swarmed to get key stops when needed this season.
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Packers defense has come up with big stops when they've needed them this season. They've generated turnovers. And, thankfully, they have depth in the defensive backfield because they will be without Sam Shields and most likely Tramon Williams, as well. Fortunately, Casey Hayward and Davon House are there to step in. With LB Brad Jones returning to the lineup after the injury to Jamari Lattimore last week, the Packers linebackers can and will be challenged to contain Newton. If they can do that, it's the Packers game.

This is a game the Pack should win, especially at home. If they let one player -- Newton -- take over the game, they don't deserve to win. But they will. Green Bay is slotted as 6-1/2 point favorites today. I think the Packers blow this game open...but I think the final score may be closer than the actual game play would indicate.

We're calling it 31-27 in favor of the Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!