Panthers Offensive Game-Plan
Cam Newton was recently added to the Panthers injury report. Though he is designated as probable, Newton’s listed injury is a sore throwing shoulder. The injury should raise some concerns when it comes to the Panthers’ offensive game-planning as the offense begins and ends with Newton. We may see a decrease in passing plays tomorrow because of Newton’s shoulder, which is unfortunate. Cam comes into tomorrow’s game as the NFL’s 6th rated passer with 2,393 yards and 11 touchdowns. I suspect that the play-calling tomorrow will be much closer to a 50/50 split between passing and rushing plays. When Newton does throw the ball, expect him to target his usual suspects in Steve Smith (46 receptions, 918 yards, 4 TD) and Greg Olsen (30 receptions, 359 yards, 4 TD). If the defense chooses to double Smith and Olsen at times, Brandon LaFell, Jeremy Shockey, and Legedu Naanee could make the Titans’ defense pay.
If Newton’s shoulder injury is in fact real and not a strategic listing, I would expect to see Double Trouble to get a heavy dose of the called offensive plays tomorrow. With the efforts of Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, and Cam Newton, the Panthers come into tomorrow’s game with the 8th best rushing offense which averages 129 yards per game. Tennessee’s defense is average and that is being polite. The Titans rank 15th in pass defense and 23rd in rush defense coming into tomorrow’s contest. If Newton has less of a role in tomorrow’s offense, I expect to see the Carolina coaching staff to use the run early and often to help wear down the defense and to help set-up the pass. I would not expect to see many, if any, designed run plays that involve Cam Newton in order to help minimize the impact the hits could have on his shoulder.
Panthers Defensive Game-Plan
The Carolina Panther defense has an excellent opportunity to gain confidence and put up a decent performance against a Tennessee offense that lacks a lot to be desired. Additionally, it is not unconceivable that Carolina Defensive Coordinator, Sean McDermott could be coaching for his job in the last eight contests of the season. McDermott has a reputation of having a very intelligent football mind but employs a very complex defensive system. Quite frankly, Carolina’s defense has to man-up, get mean, and be more productive. The Panthers have blown second half leads in five of their six losses; most of the blame has to fall on the shoulders of the defense. The Panthers’ defense has been devastated by injuries and one of their remaining defensive playmakers, linebacker James Anderson, is questionable for tomorrow’s game as he did not practice on Friday due to an ankle injury.
The Carolina defense ranks 13th in passing and 28th in rushing through the first nine weeks of the season. The good news for the Panthers is that Tennessee will be missing their top receiver, Kenny Britt who is out for the year with a torn ACL. Carolina must focus on tight-end Jared Cook, receiver Nate Washington, and the progressing second-year receiver Damian Williams in the passing game. The NFL community is still waiting for running-back Chris Johnson to show up and to begin actually earning his lucrative pay-check. Johnson did a lot of talking during the off-season about a contract extension but has yet to actually back it up on the field. Hopefully for the Panthers, Johnson will decide to postpone his 2011 coming out party until the Titans next game.
Titans Offensive Game Plan
Matt Hasselbeck has enjoyed rejuvenation in Nashville. I considered the signing of Matt Hasselbeck to be the best overall move of the NFL off-season. Hasselbeck provides stability, leadership, and mentorship to the franchise’s future quarterback, Jake Locker. Hasselbeck has been impressive this year throwing for 2,014 yards and 13 touchdowns. The yards that Hasselbeck has accumulated through the air is the second most of his career through the first eight games of the season. I would expect a very similar Tennessee offensive attack tomorrow focusing on short passes and the running game in hopes that big plays will present themselves at some point during the game. Tennessee’s passing game currently ranks 13th in the NFL, averaging 240 yards through the air.
Though his ego is in mid-season form, the legs of Chris Johnson are not. Johnson is only averaging three yards per carry this year and is on pace to record a disappointing 732 yards on the ground. Back-up, Javon Ringer has not done much better averaging only 3.4 yards a carry on 39 attempts. The lack of a rushing threat thus far gives Tennessee the distinction of having the absolute worst rushing attack in the NFL, only averaging 70 yards a game. Someone is going to gain confidence tomorrow, either the Titan rush offense continues to stink and the young Panther defensive line finally has something to celebrate about; or Johnson actually decides to perform like the player he is paid to be and torches the Carolina defense for 150+ yards.
Titans Defensive Game Plan
The Titans defense is pretty average ranking 15th in the pass and 23rd in rushing. I believe the Titans could expect to see the bulk of early plays to be on the ground. I would not be surprised if the Panthers had more rushing attempts in this game than in any other game they have played this year. That will definitely benefit Carolina as rushing the ball consistently will help to wear down the Titans’ defense and could help take the pressure off Newton who is nursing a sore shoulder.
The biggest thing Tennessee must do tomorrow is not allow Newton to have time to go through his progression and target Smith or Olsen. They need to put consistent pressure on Cam and try to hit him as much as possible, especially if his sore shoulder is more than a ploy.
Game Prediction: Panthers come off the bye with a 27-20 win.