The Carolina Panthers are hosting the Oakland Raiders this weekend. The Panthers are trying to win their 3rd game in a row and 4th out of the last 5. We should be on a 4 game win streak coming into this week if not for having had to face an emotionally inspired Kansas City Chiefs team back on December 2nd. That being said the Panthers have been playing really good football for the last few weeks. The win against I-85 rival Atlanta was a big step in finding an identity for this team. And likely went a long way in saving the head coaching job for Ron Rivera. Let’s hope the roll Carolina is on can continue against Oakland.
The Raiders are on a roll of their own, losers of 6 out of their last 7 games. In those 6 losses Oakland has given up an average of more than 35 points per game, while only averaging just over 18 points per game. The season has been what most prognosticators expected,what will be a record between 4-12 to 6-10. First year coach Dennis Allen has instilled discipline and placed greater significance on offensive and defensive detail. This coaching style has taken the team in a new direction but has yet to yield any results. The team’s leading rusher Darren McFadden did miss 4 games this season and his absence limits the big play ability of the offense as well as the effectiveness of the ground game. Quarterback Carson Palmer has produced this season. He has managed to post a quarterback rating of 85, passed for 3,987 yards and also thrown 22 touchdowns. The teams leading receiver Brandon Myers, a 4th year tight end out of Iowa, has managed to grab 72 passes from Palmer. As usual the Raiders have speed to burn on the outside. That is where they can they can be explosive. Denarius Moore, Darius Heyward-Bey, Derek Hagan, andRod Streater all average at least 12 yards per reception, with Moore and Heyward-Bey averaging greater than 15 yards per catch. That is what scares me with this offense. If given time, Palmer can get the ball deep to the receivers, and with the 9th ranked offensive line having only given up 26 sacks , he may get that time. The team ranks 7th in passing offense, so they have proven to be effective through the air.
Defense is another story for the Raiders. They rank 25th in total yards and are tied for dead last in points given up with the Buffalo Bills, surrendering almost 29 points per game. The defense is anchored by leading tackler Phillip Wheeler. The 5th year outside linebacker from Georgia Tech has 104 tackles on the season and is tied for 2nd on the team in sacks with 3, and is 1st on the team with 2 forced fumbles. This Oakland defensive unit has not had much success stopping anyone during the 2012 season and that will likely continue in this matchup against Carolina. Expect Cam and the boys to put up some good numbers versus this unit.
All and all I see the Panthers winning this game. We should be able to stop the run and focus our attention to thwarting Palmer and the Raiders passing game. The potential for a shootout is there but the way Carolina has been playing as of late leads me to believe Carolina should win this one comfortably. Look for the score to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 31-14 in favor of the home team. If it so happens to be close, remember the Raiders do have Sebastian Janikowski, he could be the difference maker in a close game.
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