The Carolina Panthers are one of the best teams in the NFL right now. They are currently on a five game win streak, have one of the best defenses, and have one of the most versatile quarterbacks in Cam Newton. The Patriots will have their hands full this week, but if they stick to these three things, they should be able to win the game.
1. Do not be afraid run the ball
Carolina has the second best run defense in the entire league giving up only 82 yards per game. You would think the Patriots should throw the ball a lot more, but Carolina also has the fifth best pass defense. The Patriot’s run game this year has been far stronger and more consistent than the pass game, so therefore, they should choose to run the ball at least 40 percent of the time. Running the ball also has many advantages that will be key to scoring against this strong Carolina defense. It helps open up the play action and helps create third and short situation—something the Patriots need in order to convert on third downs. It also keeps the clock running, saving the defense and preventing Carolina’s grinding offense from getting on the field. Even if they average less than four yards per carry, the run will be important in a Patriots victory.
2. Stop Carolina’s run
For the same reasons the Patriots should run the ball are the same reasons why they need to make sure they stop Carolinas run. If Carolina is able to get large chunks of positive rushing yards on first and second downs, it will ruin the Patriots chances of success. A strong run game opens up the field for a pass, and Cam Newton has completed over 60 percent of them. Carolina is currently third in the league in third down completion percentage at 46.2 percent and first in average time of possession at 33:47. A lot of that has to do with their effectiveness running the ball. Overall, stopping the run on the early downs is the only way to keep Carolina’s offense off the field.
3.Do not give up long passing plays to Carolina
Carolina is around the league average in plays of over 20 and 40 yards. However, if they can get two or three of those off an opponent in one game, it is devastating for them. If the Patriots have problems with man coverage deep down the field, they will have to take away safety coverage from Cam Newton and allow the field to open up for him to make either big running plays or short completions. Once again, this allows Carolina to open up another part of their game to continually get first downs and control the clock. All of the Patriots defenders will have to do their job on every play to prevent the “deep one” so they do not have to worry as much about Newton using his legs to get first downs.