Re: Patriots-Panthers Matchup
posted at 11/16/2013 9:59 PM EST
In response to Paul_K's comment:
Potential Super Bowl preview. I have the Panthers as #1 in my rankings. The Patriots are rapidly improving with their new lineup.
The Panther line brings it. The Patriot line is pretty good at keeping Brady protected, except at center where they are pretty weak. More important, Brady unloads the ball faster than anybody else in the NFL.
The Panther front seven is an excellent run-stopping group. One possible hole: Gronk is an excellent run blocker. However, the Panthers are used to run-blocking tight ends. Their tight end blocks but doesn't ever get open. I suspect the Patriots will throw a bit more this game. If the Panthers retool to cover the pass, the Pats will be happy to run a zone-blocking scheme.
Panthers love to bump and run. That won't work against Dobson, he releases well. Amendola can be bumped only by a small, quick, aggressive cornerback, and I don't know if Carolina carries such a guy. Bump Gronk and he bumps you back out of the play, unless you put a truly heavy defensive end on him at the line. Carolina has no one with long enough arms to keep Gronk from body-blocking them out of the play. Luke Kuechly has excellent speed and explosion to keep up with most tight ends but his arms are notably too shrimpy to cover Gronk's body blocking. This part isn't stacking up well against Carolina at all. Then there's Shane Vereen, starting third and long running back, coming onto the field again. I get the feeling that nobody but long-time Patriots fans knows what's about to hit the field.
Carolina's big hole is Brady and company running the hurry-up to perfection. Pittsburgh was a pretty good defense but when they had three guys guarding one receiver and one poor defensive guy trying to guard two Patriot receivers, they didn't look good at all. They get an extra day to practice, but they gave their all at San Francisco and took the redeye home, so it's possible that they're going in to the Patriots game just a little bit unfamiliar. That's an issue when playing the Pats.
Carolina runs their read option with a big heavy quarterback. The line blocks well, and they have a blocking tight end who acts as a sixth lineman.
Four weeks ago, it's rumored that teams were somewhat able to collapse the center of the Patriots's defensive line. First off, that was as much rumor as fact. In fact the replacement DTs were doing moderately well and yardage per play was rather low. Second, Soap is in that hole now. Third, the whole Patriots front eight is heavy, and BB beefs up the line as needed, playing a 5-2 on obvious running plays.
Cam Newton is rather mediocre in the pocket throwing without pressure. He's pretty good when in trouble. The Pats are probably going to drop seven on passing downs, keep containment and hope for coverage sacks.
Everybody has a #1, but otherwise Panther receivers as a group are rather unremarkable. The Patriots missed their #1 CB Talib two weeks ago but he's on the field now.
Thanks, Paul. Always enjoy reading your take.