First off, I would like to apologize for not posting on the site for some time. For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently in my senior year of high school and with year round athletics and my studies, as well as college applications and tours I just haven’t had the time to allocate any resources to the site. Again, I apologize and I look forward to posting again, as well as any feedback which I feverishly crave. But now, on with the article!
The Carolina Panthers are finally back into the NFL Playoffs since 2008!! Not only that, but the team has performed well enough to finish with the first round bye that accompanies the title of NFC South Division Champions! This is an incredible gift, and I feel the Panther fan base, as well as all those players who have stuck with the team have been rewarded, fruitfully. However, the basis of the article is the possible opponents that team might be facing, either the Philadelphia Eagles, the Green Bay Packers, or the San Francisco 49ers, depending on who wins the respective games. If the Eagles defeat the New Orleans Saints then the Panthers will automatically play the Eagles regardless of who wins the Green Bay/San Fran game. However, if the Eagles lose, which I fear they might, the Panthers will play the winner of the Green Bay/San Fran game. Those are the terms.
As a Panther fan, I would much rather like to play the Green Bay Packers or the Philadelphia Eagles rather than the San Francisco 49ers, though I will give my opinions on each possible game.
As I said earlier, I would much rather see the Eagles or the Packers in the playoffs than the 49ers. I see both the Eagles and the Packers games going the same way, an incredible pass rush from the Panthers and the opposing defenses having trouble to figure out Cam Newton.
Both the Packers and the Eagles have similar defenses. Both rank near the bottom in total defense (29 for Philadelphia and 25 for Green Bay) and have similar low rankings when it comes to points per game, yards per game, passing yards, etc… (all ratings can be found on ESPN.com). I understand that stats do not mean everything, but if the Panthers can get some long methodical drives that end up leading to points, which would be significantly easier against the Packers and the Eagles than the 49ers, the Panthers could easily take this game.
The problem with the Packers and the Eagles is their offenses, both of which rank within the top five of the NFL. However both offenses work to the Panthers favor. Both have been relying heavily on a running attack, but with Aaron Rodgers back in the mix look for the Packers to rely more on him than anything else. The Panther’s defense has been designed to handle a running attack with the incredible amount of push the front four get off the immediate snap of the ball. The Panthers have been incredible when it comes stopping a running attack and I don’t see any reason why it should fail now. Our pass defense has been incredibly strong as well and I expect both both match ups ending in our favor.
San Francisco would obviously be the biggest threat to ending the Panthers time in the playoffs. With a defense and offense similar to Carolina’s, the 49ers pose a huge threat. The game plan to the San Fran game would be incredibly similar to that of the original game earlier this season, if not exactly the same. Getting to Kaepernick is key, along with slowing down Frank Gore. If the defense can put all those keys into place, all the Panthers would have to do is continuously plug away at offense until an opportunity to score arrises.
However, the 49ers cannot be taken lightly. Kaepernick is just as elusive as Cam, and though I do not think he is better than Cam, his receivers around him are better than Carolinas and could definitely get the slip on some of Carolinas defensive backs. I don’t think the 49ers could beat the Panthers again, especially at home, but it will be an incredibly hard fought game. The ability of Cam Newton to find open receivers, as well as holes in the running game will ultimately be the deciding factor if the Panthers end up playing the San Francisco 49ers.
Whoever the opponent on January 12th is, I honestly think the Panthers will take the win. The team definitely believes in itself as well as coach Rivera, and the fan base as been itching for a playoff game for a long time and the fact that it’s in Charlotte just adds to the excitement. Whether it’s the Packers, 49ers, or Eagles, I am incredibly excited that the Panthers are back in the playoffs!!!