Panthers vs. Rams: 3 burning questions for Week 1 matchup

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Cam Newton and Ron Rivera
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Cam Newton and Ron Rivera /

Week 1 of the regular season kicks off with the Carolina Panthers taking on the Los Angeles Rams. The first game is a question mark for most teams and the Panthers are no different.

After a roller coaster ride in 2018, the Panthers enter the season with a clean slate. Unfortunately, the team does not get to ease into the new year against a middle of the pack team. However, the early season matchup against the defending NFC Champions could be a good test right out the gates.

Both the Panthers and Rams enter the season healthy and ready to get a tally in the win column right away. The Rams bring almost the exact same roster that got them to last year’s Super Bowl into Charlotte Week 1. The Panthers have a few key additions but will be centered around the same star players that they had last season.

If the Panthers can get a win Week 1 against the Rams they will have to answer some of the burning questions that fans have had since the end of last year.

Read on to preview what uncertainties the Panthers will have to address in Sunday’s game against the Rams.

1. Can Cam Newton avoid taking so many big hits?

It’s unfair to put all the blame on quarterback Cam Newton for how many hits he takes. The Panthers addressed some of their offensive line issues they had a season ago by adding center Matt Paradis and tackle Greg Little. Little will have to wait to make an impact as he is likely to miss the opening week with a concussion.

The Panthers are only going to be able to win as many games as Newton can lead them to. Cam must know this and avoid taking hits that could add to his injury history. If he can shorten the amount of time he holds onto the ball in the pocket and protects himself while scrambling, he could avoid taking those hits that make Carolina fans cringe.

The Panthers will have a good chance at winning Week 1 against the Rams if they can keep Newton upright.

2. Can Christian McCaffrey pick up where he left off last season?

Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey had an unbelievable season in 2018. He totaled 1,965 yards from scrimmage and fell just 133 receiving yards away from being the first running back since Marshall Faulk to receive and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

All reports out of camp have been raving that McCaffrey has somehow improved from the player he was last year. If this is true, opposing defenses are going to have their hands full trying to bring down the elusive playmaker.

If McCaffrey can pick up where he left off last season the Rams will have a very difficult time accounting for both him and Newton on offense.

Christian McCaffrey Rushing & Receiving Table

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3. Can the Panthers’ defense get back to the dominant force of years past?

Head coach Ron Rivera would be the first to admit that the Panthers’ defense did not live up to expectations in 2018. Carolina finished 19th in the NFL in points allowed per game. They allowed an average of 24 points per game.

For reference, in 2015 (the year the Panthers went to the Super Bowl), the defense allowed only 19 points per game. Additions like defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and rookie edge rusher Brian Burns should help the defense get back to what it was in previous years.

If the defense can get pressure on Rams quarterback Jared Goff and slow down their top playmakers like running back Todd Gurley and receiver Brandin Cooks they will have a good chance at starting the season off with a win.