Predator vs. Prey is a new weekly column that will feature a preview of the Panthers’ opponent for that given week. We will breakdown the X’s and O’s, matchups on both sides of the ball, and predict the outcome for the game. Whether it’s Sunday, Monday or Thursday night, CatCrave.com has you covered for everything you need to know leading up to the big game.
Predator: Carolina Panthers
Prey: New England Patriots
Environment: Gillette Stadium - Foxboro, MA
Time of Kill: 7.30pm
Welcome Cat Crave Nation to Predator vs. Prey. For week three of the preseason, the Carolina Panthers travel to New England to take on the Patriots. Short turnaround this week for Carolina, but the starters are expected to play for the entire first half. This should be the final dress rehearsal before the season opener on September 7th.
New England is 1-1 in the preseason, and have had two drastically different games thus far. Tom Brady is still under center for the Pats, but their offense is still a work-in-progress. Former Panther wide receiver Brandon LaFell is Brady’s newest weapon and Kembrell Thompkins is looking to improve off of an impressive rookie campaign.
Revis Island has relocated to Foxboro and it will be interesting to see if Revis’ health has improved enough to raise him back to elite corner status. Former Seahawk corner, Brandon Browner is opposite Revis, so the boundaries are locked down with two top-flight DBs. A solid front-seven will help improve a defense that will look to stop Cam Newton and the recently revitalized running game in Carolina.
Predator on Offense:
A full half of action will help Cam Newton continue to work towards a full recovery from offseason ankle surgery. Cam started off terrible on the first few drives last week, but got into a nice rhythm as he got more reps.
Jonathan Stewart had an incredible game last week, so it appears that the running game is back alive in the Queen City. Newton will balance the attack as always, and should look to put more pressure on his feet to ensure he’s ready 16 days from today. Jerricho Cotchery, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen will have their hands full with the Patriots’ neo-secondary.
Look for fringe starters like Tavarres King, Brandon Williams and perhaps Brenton Bersin to get some run with the first unit as well. The Panthers have numerous options to help move the ball and will need to utilize their tools to keep the Patriots’ defense humble.
The most important things for the Panthers to get out of their offense tonight is a healthy Cam Newton, gauging Byron Bell‘s first road test against agile defenders and how Kelvin Benjamin fares against veteran elite corners. Carolina has four balanced running backs and three tight ends that will play huge roles in tonight’s game.
Predator on Defense:
Tom Brady will get the most playing time tonight, so look for the Panthers’ front-seven to have their ears pinned back and ready to attack. Stevan Ridley is equally adept at hurting the Panthers on the ground or as a receiver, so Carolina will have to keep an eye on him.
Brandon LaFell’s first game against his former team should be interesting. Look for Antoine Cason and Melvin White to eat his lunch all game. LaFell is big talk, but I don’t see him backing it up against this ferocious defense. Rob Gronkowski is a beast and the Panthers will just need to contain him, because he’s a handful to try and completely stop.
The Patriots have a few slippery WRs in Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman so Carolina will have to be weary of the quick hitters and drag routes. Getting pressure against Brady and the rookie, Jimmy Garappolo will be the focus and letting the defensive backs do their job. Fullback James Develin has been a frequent target this preseason and the youngster has been a nice surprise for the Patriots this preseason.
I am interested to see a full half of Thomas DeCoud at safety and if A.J. Klein can hold his own against Gronk. The only real position battle on defense is nickel and strong safety, so we will see a heavy dose of Charles Godfrey, Bene Benwikere, Anderson Russell, and Robert Lester.
FINAL VERDICT: CAROLINA - 27 NEW ENGLAND - 24