NFL Preview: Carolina Panthers vs Houston
Another week of NFL action is upon us and with that comes a preview for the matchup between the Carolina Panthers and the Texans. The Panthers will continue their road trip by making a stop in Houston. Before we dive into the matchup, let’s first take a look at the injury report for both teams:
CB, Donte Jackson– The high flying CB is listed as a game time decision as he has been struggling with a groin injury all week and he has not practiced the past few days.
G, Trai Turner– Turner has been ruled out for this game with an ankle injury. But this shouldn’t affect Christian McCaffrey’s numbers too bad.
DE, Bruce Irvin– Irvin has said that he will definitely play this Sunday. This is good news for all Panther fans as he has not been able to play yet this season. This will help the Panthers out with their pass rush against a horrible Houston offensive line.
QB, Cam Newton-As most of you reading this know, Cam is out again this week and QB Kyle Allen will get the start
DT, Kawann Short-Short missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury and is questionable going into this week’s game.
No notable injuries to report. Most of those who were on the injured list were participating in practice this week, outside of those already on the IR.
So right off the bat, the first thing to notice is that Carolina is running into some injury woes the past couple of weeks. Even with the injuries, it didn’t seem like they missed much of a step, to begin with last week but, they did face a rather weak Arizona team. Houston has several players on the IR this season, including some key offensive linemen, their starting tight end, and RB Lamar Miller. However, there have been no new injury developments. Even though Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins were limited in practice this week they are expected to start Sunday.
Keys to the game for Carolina Panthers
- Contain the pass threats in Houston’s offense
This is going to be vital for Carolina’s success against the Texans. The Carolina secondary has to step up and be able to contain their two biggest threats. This could be compromised with a game time decision for Donte Jackson, who would cover WR Will Fuller if he plays. If Jackson cannot play that would likely leave Ross Cockrell to cover Fuller, and Bradberry would be the main guy covering the number one man, Hopkins. However, the wide receivers may not be the only threat they have to worry about. During last week’s game against the Chargers, Houston’s three passing touchdowns were all to their tight ends. Not one went to a receiver. So in a nutshell, if Carolina wants a shot at winning, their pass defense has to step it up and be concerned about everyone who is on the field.
2. Establish a run game to neutralize Houston’s pass rush-
The one thing that should concern every Panther fan going into this game is how they are going to stop the pass rush threats that Houston has. I mean look at their roster and they have JJ Watt, Quentin Mercilus, and DJ Reader. Let’s be honest, the Panthers haven’t had the best offensive line as of late, so there is reason for concern. The key to neutralizing this for Carolina, is they have to get McCaffrey going early and keep him going through the game to keep the defense in check. If McCaffrey is having a good game and he is busting off some nice runs then that opens up play-action passes for Allen to help open up the passing game.
3. Hit Watson often and hard
Houston ranks right under Carolina at #15 when it comes to sacks allowed on their QB, and even worse when it comes to their QB getting hit. Last season Watson was sacked a whopping 62 times. This year he is already at 12 sacks on the season, with 6 coming from the New Orleans game. The Panthers have one of the better D-Line groups in the league right now. Last week they teed off on the Cardinals O-Line by sacking Kyler Murray, eight times. Expect the Panthers to utilize their addition of a healthy Bruce Irvin back on the D-Line, and hit Houston at their weakness, which is pass protection.
Keys for Houston
- Shut down McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey has been on a tear since the start of the season. Outside of the rough game he had against Tampa Bay, he has been a nuisance for defenses to stop. If he doesn’t beat you running, he will beat you in how he can catch the ball and get upfield. So really, you have to be aware of his presence and where he is on the field at all times. If you can shut down McCaffrey then you force the new guy to throw the ball and test what he is made of
2. Keep Watson upright
This will be the ultimate challenge for a team who is one of the worst at protecting their QB. A big key for the Texans is going to be to stop the Panthers pass rush, which includes guys like Gerald McCoy, rookie Brian Burns, and Bruce Irvin. It will be important to find ways to counter Carolina’s blitzes; seeing as they find ways to blitz both corners and their safeties. It will be a difficult task for the Houston offensive line to achieve but it would definitely help their odds of winning.
3. Get the ball to your playmakers
When you look at the Houston roster it is stacked with playmakers. Guys like Deshaun Watson at QB, Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde at RB, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Kenny Stills at WR just for a few examples. In order to dominate in this game, they have to get the ball to their playmakers. Let Johnson and Hyde pound the ball and let Hopkins and his crew go up and get the ball. Feed -the ball to the people who can make the big plays happen. The Texans will put themselves in the position to succeed.
Prediction for Sunday
Although Houston is only a slight favorite in this match-up, I have to give an unbiased opinion and say that Carolina will lose here. I don’t know if Allen is ready to take on a defense like Houston’s just yet. Arizona wasn’t much of a challenge for him because Arizona doesn’t have a defense. When it comes to the caliber of QB’s that we are dealing with here, my money goes to Watson. I think overall that it will be a fairly close game. I have Houston covering the spread, winning straight up, and I will take the under here. Being a Carolina Panther fan, I hope that I am wrong, but this is a true road test for a young QB, and I don’t see it ending in a win.
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