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Instead of going with just a single player here, I’m going to go with the Patriots’ entire defense. After finishing last season as the number 1 scoring defense in the league, Matt Patricia’s 2017 unit is currently last in the league in both yards/game and points/game. I’ve given them a pass so far, as they faced some dynamic playmakers over the first few weeks and have suffered from communication issues with all of the new players that have come in, but the unit needs to click soon. The Patriots have struggled to defend mobile quarterbacks and cover athletic running backs so far this year, so Sunday will be a big test as they face Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey.
Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton just hasn’t been the same player as he was during their remarkable 2015 campaign, and its been dragging the Panthers down. Some say that its because of injury, while others say that its because he just isn’t that good of a passer. Either way, Cam will have a perfect opportunity to rebound Sunday against the Patriots, as they have struggled as of late to defend mobile quarterbacks. If he can use his legs to evade pressure on Sunday and open up opportunities to pass downfield, he could lead the Panthers to victory over the Patriots’ struggling defense.
GAME PREVIEW AND ANALYSIS
The last time the Patriots played the Panthers was in 2013, when a flag for pass interference against Panthers’ linebacker Luke Kuechly was picked up, ultimately ending the Patriots’ chances of a comeback. Many Patriots fans still remember this game to this day.
Flash forward to the present, and you see that the Patriots have struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks so far this season, and thus face a big test on Sunday when going up against one of the league’s best dual threat quarterbacks in Cam Newton. So if Newton can evade the Patriots’ mediocre pass rush, he should have plenty of time for someone to get open downfield.
As for the other side of the ball, the Patriots’ offensive line will have their hands full against a solid Carolina pass rush. Starting right tackle Marcus Cannon was out last week with a concussion, so it remains to be seen if he can come back playing at the level he was before. In addition, starting left tackle Nate Solder seems to be recovering from an undisclosed injury that he suffered during training camp, which has caused him to play at a less-than ideal level. The Panthers’ defense will need to pressure Brady often, force a lot of three-and-outs and ultimately put the onus on the Patriots’ defense to step up to win the game.