Sep 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) huddles with teammates against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
When the Panthers Have the Ball
Panthers Rushing Offense (29th) vs Bears Rush Defense (20th)
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I’m not sure which group is more dinged up, the Panthers backfield or the Bears’ secondary. The Panthers will be without DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert and likely Jonathan Stewart. They’re down to Darrin Reaves (ever heard of him? Me neither.) The Panthers lost two offensive linemen to retirement, which certainly didn’t help the continuity of their offensive line. The Panthers only gain 71 yards per game on the ground while Cam Newton only has attempted 8 rushes through three games that he’s played. You have to wonder if the Panthers test the Bears and their rush defense against the read option against which they’ve struggled.
The Bears rush defense has rebounded nicely after a pathetic Week 1 performance against the Buffalo Bills. They’ve shut down a couple of formidable threats in the Chris Ivory/Chris Johnson duo and last season’s ROY Eddie Lacy in consecutive weeks.
Panthers Passing Offense (13th) vs Bears Pass Defense (20th)
Sep 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (88) attempts to make a catch in front of Baltimore Ravens safety Darien Stewart (24) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
The Bears pass defense has been hobbled by injuries, losing Peanut Tillman for the season and turning the safety group upside down with a barrage of injuries. The good news for the Bears is that Chris Conte participated fully and it looks like Ryan Mundy will be good to go for Sunday as well. The pass defense should be bolstered by the return of Jared Allen, who should be back from his bout with pneumonia.
Everyone thought the Panthers were crazy when they let Steve Smith walk, but rookie Kelvin Benjamin has been impressive in his first few games. Greg Olsen remains a reliable target for Cam Newton, who’s evolving into more of a pocket passer and boasts a 98 passer rating.
So what do you think? Who has the advantage on Sunday?