The Packers won a thrilling opening day matchup versus the Panthers’ NFC foe, the New Orleans Saints last Thursday. Aaron Rodgers continued his climb of elite NFL quarterbacks as he went head-to-head with Drew Brees and was instrumental in the Packers 42-34 win. Rodgers completed 27 passes in 35 attempts (77.1% completion percentage) for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Green Bay team displayed many of their weapons as Rodgers completed 7 passes to Greg Jennings for 87 yards and a touchdown and Jordy Nelson for 6 receptions for 77 yards and an additional touchdown. Rodgers also targeted the veratile rookie, Randal Cobb for an additional score.
The Packers defense, however, found it hard to stop the efficient New Orelans offense. The Saints were able to accumulate 477 yards, of which 396 were through the air while the other 81 came on the ground. The Packers defense was able to sack Brees three times, though, reminding people that they have playmakers on the defensive side of the ball who are able to put pressure on the quarterback.
The fact that the Packers defense allowed Brees to throw for 396 yards has to give Panther fans some degree of optimism. Further complicating matters, cornerback Tramon Williams may not suit up for the Packers due to a shoulder injury. If Williams can’t go, Sam Shields is expected to start in his place.
Though the Panthers lost to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, the team played pretty well and were particularly impressive in the passing game. Cam Newton was able to set a rookie debut record throwing for over 420 yards.
To remain competitive the Panthers must take advantage of big play opportunities when they present themselves. The Panthers will be short-handed on the offensive line as often-injured starter, Jeff Otah will not be playing due to a concussion. Impressive undrafted rookie, Byron Bell will be starting in place of Otah.
For a more well-rounded offensive showing the Panthers must establish the run. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams were unimpressive against the Cardinals. If the Packers are able to stop the run as well as the Cardinals did, Newton and the Panthers may not be able to be as successful through the air as they were in Week 1. Hopefully, the Packers defense will still be clearing out some of the cob-webs tomorrow and Double Trouble will be able to return to their original form.
On defense, the Panthers cannot allow big plays to the Packer playmakers. The fact that the Packers have four legitimate receivers in Jennings, Nelson, Cobb, and James Jones could represent the biggest mismatch of the day. The Panthers’ defensive backfield is still largely young and inexperienced though they did play adequately against the Cardinals.
The blitzing packages that the Panthers have shown on defense could be largely ineffective tomorrow as Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks against blitzing defenses. In short, Rodgers thrives on blitzing and is able to get the ball out quickly and is able to recognize and take advantage of mismatches. I would not be shocked to see the Panthers play quite a bit of zone defense and Cover 2 to help compensate for Rodgers ability to thread the needle.
Though I expect the game to be another loss for the Panthers, I am eager to see if Newton has another impressive day. I am also eager to see how well the defense will respond following the loss of Jon Beason. Dan Connor is ready to step up and he and the rest of the Pathers defense will surely be tested.