Saturday, September 20, 2014

Panthers Black and Blue

   Heading into Sunday night's nationally televised home game with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Panthers' chances are good as gold toward making it 3-0, but several of the regular starters are feeling black and blue, nursing injuries.  

Panthers going after 3-in-a-Row
  Carolina is one of only seven NFL teams that are undefeated after two games.  Some of them are major surprises, like Buffalo and Houston.  The Panthers are only a mild surprise after going 12-4 last year and winning the NFC South Division title.  But Tampa Bay was actually favored in the opener, and many analysts picked Detroit to beat them also.  While we know that being undefeated may not realistically last for long, there is no reason to doubt the team's ability to continue the streak now.

  Defensive star Greg Hardy has been suspended pending outcome of his domestic violence court case.  Several offensive players, such as running backs DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert, and receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant, are nursing various injuries and may not be available for Sunday's game.

  Carolina's unofficial team motto "Next Man Up" certainly applies in these team injury situations. In the home opener, backup QB Derek Anderson stepped up in a big way, leading the Panthers to several scores.  Then last week, backup DE Mario Addison took over for Hardy and registered 2 1/2 quarterback sacks.  As a team, Carolina has seven, and led the NFL last season with 60 sacks.  RB Jonathan Stewart, while technically not a sub, has stepped in for Williams, reversing the roles of the past two years when Stewart was on the bench.

  One of the several keys to this game with the Steelers will be providing pressure on the quarterback, and not allowing big plays in the secondary.  If the Panthers defense continues playing at the level they have in the first two games, then this is definitely a possible scenario.

  While the Steelers are a worthy opponent, I'd still "bet the house" that they beat Pittsburgh on Sunday night to stay a perfect 3-0 and maintain their division lead. 

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