PANTHERS vs PACKERS
SHOWDOWN ON SUNDAY
The Panthers game with the Green Bay Packers on Sunday will be the toughest game they have played so far this season. It could very well also be the most important game that we will play all this year, including our division games with the Falcons. Fan and media buzz is that this game will have playoff implications, perhaps deciding a playoff seeding or a home field advantage.
So what's the big deal? The main thing is that Carolina MAKES it to the playoffs, right? Maybe. Maybe not. You might point to the fact that in 2008, the Panthers went 12--4, won the NFC South, got a first round bye, and played the Cardinals at home in a divisional playoff. And they LOST 33--13. Yes-- anything can happen. Playing on your home field doesn't ever guarantee a win. The game still has to be played, and the team still has to execute and play well to win. But still--- these things do matter.
|Possible Preview ?|
Think about this scenario-- the Panthers win a playoff game (or two) and wind up in the NFC Championship Game-- one game from the Super Bowl. But they ended up TIED in the regular season with the Packers-- let's say, with identical 14--2 records-- but one of the Panthers' two losses was to Green Bay. The head--to--head matchup would determine playoff seeding and the home field advantage. So, instead of playing at home in Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, where we'd be playing in milder 40--ish degree weather, the Panthers would go all the way to Green Bay's infamous Lambeau Field, the site of the 1967 "Ice Bowl" (with temperatures below freezing ) !
So a loss on Sunday won't have immediate negative impact. It won't eliminate us from playoff contention. But it could have some playoff ramifications for January.
The Packers' loss to the Broncos last weekend showed that the Pack is not invincible. They are beatable. But it also possibly gave Green Bay an added incentive against the Panthers. They are not wanting to go from a 6--0 undefeated team to a 6--2 team with a two--game losing streak. There's a certain amount of pride involved. But there's also the surprising Minnesota VIkings at 5--2, sitting just a game behind the Packers, and waiting to take over the division lead. Yes-- the Pack is a good team with great motivation to win this game.
What is the best scenario for Sunday's game? Well-- the keys to the Packers game are much like any other. I'm sure that Carolina has a more specific game plan designed just for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay team. But there are a few basics that must happen for us to win this game-- or even stay in this game.
KEYS TO THE GAME
- FAST Start. Carolina needs to score first, or at least get out to a good start in the first quarter. We cannot afford to get down to a great team like Green Bay. It will help us if we can build a lead and maintain it throughout the game.
- POSSESSION. We need to win the time of possession battle. In other words, our offense needs to "take their time" marching down the field on most drives, and keep the ball away from the Green Bay offense. If the Packers don't have the ball, they can't score.
- RUN the Ball. The Panthers running backs (plus Cam Newton) must have a good day. Carolina has been averaging 145 yards per game on the ground. We must gain at least 75--100 yards or more rushing. This doesn't appear too difficult when you see the Packers are #25 in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing almost 125 yards per game.
- NO Turnovers. Carolina must NOT give up the ball to the Packers. We've had a tendency to lose the ball a few times a game, but be able to bounce back from those mistakes. We mustn't expect that level of resiliency against this Packers team.
- BIG Plays. In particular, the Panthers receivers cannot drop big--time game--changing catches in the open field, like they have done occasionally against other opponents. Ted Ginn's drop on a potential touchdown pass in the Colts game comes to mind. Also, Carolina's defense cannot drop interceptions that literally slip through their fingers. We must take advantage of every opportunity given to us.
- HANG in There. The Panthers have already been doing this for as long as I can remember. They never give up-- they "keep on pounding." This game may come down to the wire, just as the Saints and Colts games did. Our team will have to show poise and patience in grinding out another win.
MY PREDICTION--- Panthers 30, Packers 27
Even if we don't win against the Packers on Sunday, the season's not over by a long shot. We still have many more games and more chances to prove ourselves. Unless we completely fall apart, we seem destined for a playoff berth and run this year. We are looking like a team of destiny. Maybe this could be our year to go all the way. Anyone else feel THAT way ?
Don't forget-- to take My PANTHERS POLL
"Will The Panthers Go to the Super Bowl this Year?"
GO & CAST YOUR VOTE