Quick stats at a glance:
Panthers passing offense: 8th overall, 272 ypg
Panthers rushing offense: 7th overall, 129 ypg
Colts passing offense: 30th overall, 177 ypg
Colts rushing offense: 24th overall, 98 ypg
Panthers passing defense: 17th overall, 234 ypg
Panthers rushing defense: 30th overall, 141 ypg
Colts passing defense: 23rd overall, 245 ypg
Colts rushing defense: 31st overall, 146 ypg
Panthers keys to the game:
On offense, the Panthers need to establish the run and go to it early and often. An efficient run game with have a two-fold benefit for Carolina. On one hand, the run game will keep the Indianapolis defense on the field which has been dreadful against the run. On the other hand, the run game will wear down the Colts defense and will allow Newton to make big plays with his arm. I expect an offensive explosion for the Panthers tomorrow and would not be shocked to see both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart close in on 100 yards apiece. I expect to see Newton to target his usual receiving suspects in Steve Smith and Greg Olsen, but to also spread the ball around to Brandon LaFell, Jeremy Shockey, and Legedu Naane. Shockey is listed as probable for tomorrow’s game and Naane is listed as questionable with separate injuries. I imagine that both Williams and Stewart will be utilized in the passing game coming out of the back-field.
On defense, the Panthers cannot allow the Colts to control the line of scrimmage. Kevin Smith, who was virtually forgotten about in the NFL universe, rushed for 140 yards against the Panthers last week. The Carolina defense has to man up tomorrow and has an excellent opportunity to cut their teeth against a Colt running game who is averaging less that 100 yard per game. I expect to see Carolina defensive coordinator to blitz consistently in order to put pressure on Colts quarterback, Curtis Painter in hopes that it will cause him to make hurried decisions which could lead to turnovers. The Panthers will not have to deal with tight-end Dallas Clark, who will be out with an injury. Therefore, Carolina’s main priority on defense will be to shut down wide receiver, Reggie Wayne. I would expect to see a lot of man coverage in order to allow for a more aggressive blitzing attack to be implemented.
Colts keys to the game:
It is apparent by the Colts inaction to claim former Broncos quarterback, Kyle Orton off waivers that they are prepared to live and die with Curtis Painter under center. Painter has not been particularly impressive at any part of the season so getting the offense going could present a problem especially with Dallas Clark out of action and with Joseph Addai being listed as questionable. I would expect to see the Colts to try to take advantage of Carolina’s horrible run defense by seeing if their rushing attack will have any effect in tomorrow’s game. A reliable run game could do wonders for Painter’s confidence and the overall performance of the Colts offense. If the rushing game is ineffective, it could be another very long day for the Colts and their fans.
On defense the key word for the Colts is containment. Their rushing defense is actually worse than the Panthers, so stopping Carolina’s seventh ranked rushing offense could prove to be a major issue. They must shut down the running game early so the game is placed on the right shoulder of rookie quarterback, Cam Newton. If the Panthers find early success in the run game, it will allow Carolina offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski to be more creative and versatile in his play-calling. The bottom line is that tomorrow’s game could be another ugly contest for the Indianapolis franchise.
Prediction: Carolina wakes up and comes out of Indianapolis with a 38-10 win.