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Friday, September 10, 2004

Green Bay Packers/Carolina Panthers Preview

by Thomas Pyc,
PackerChatters Staff

Are you ready for some football?

Monday Night Football, the longest running primetime series, kicks off with an excellent matchup between two top NFC contenders. The Carolina Panthers enter this Monday night match up coming off a 4-0 preseason preceded by the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance. The Green Bay Packers only managed a 1-3 record during the preseason but successfully retained all the key elements this offseason that helped the organization earn a playoff berth and victory. The members of Packer nation are not concerned about the 4-0 preseason record of the Panthers because the last time Green Bay achieved such a feat was 1999 which, subsequently, was the only time the franchise has finished below 9-7 (8-8) since 1992.

The strengths of both teams will meet head-to-head, literally, as the tenacious front seven of the Panthers will line up against the athletic and crafty offensive line of the Packers. Both units contain Pro Bowl members and are arguably the league’s best. Julius Peppers is coming off a stellar training camp and Brenston Buckner has shaved 15 pounds off of his veteran body. Kris Jenkins, recovering from abdominal strain, is a phenomenal performer and will certainly keep Mike Flanagan and Mike Wahle busy as both continue to shake off the rust of created by their own offseason injuries. The battle in these trenches is shaping up to be a good one.

Both of these teams thrived off of a their running attacks last year. Stephen Davis and Ahman Green contain a good blend of power and speed and the depth at this position is another similarity between both clubs. Dark-visored backups Najeh Davenport and DeShaun Foster allow these teams to pound the ball all game long, if desired.

While returning 20 of 22 starters the Packers are tired of hearing about the uncertainty surrounding the secondary. Mark Roman has beaten out former Packer Marques Anderson (traded to Oakland) for the starting safety spot opposite Darren Sharper. And with Mike McKenzie nowhere to be found Michael Hawthorne has been granted the starting cornerback spot opposite Al Harris. The Panthers also experienced a change in the secondary as safety Mike Minter and corner Ricky Manning Jr. remain the only holdovers from last year’s Super Bowl appearance. Rookie Chris Gamble (Ohio State) and the second year man out of Stanford, Colin Branch, round out the Carolina secondary.

Key Matchups

Brett Favre vs. the Panthers’ secondary

If the front seven of Carolina can neutralize the ground attack of the Pack then it will be up to Brett Favre to put points on the board. Look for Favre to go deep early and often to try and spread out the Carolina defense and help set up the running game.

Steve Smith vs. the Packers’ cornerbacks

Smith creates an interesting matchup with his speed and quickness. If the Packers’ corners cannot consistently get a good bump on him at the line it could be a long day for Green Bay.

The Packers’ “New” defensive vs. the Panthers’ Offensive Line

The Pack’s new defensive coordinator, Bob Slowik, is determined to bring a more aggressive style of defense to the field with blitz packages similar to that of the Eagles and Patriots. If Carolina’s offensive line, returning only two starters, cannot communicate and adjust Jake Delhomme might be seeing a great deal of the Carolina sky Monday night.

The Bottom Line

If the strengths of this game turn out to be a stalemate then there’s a good chance that this matchup will come down to the arms of Favre and Delhomme, as well as, the play of Special Teams. Overall, this game should turn out to be a close matchup where the loser might be the last team to turnover the ball.

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