3 Things for the Panthers to win
1. Devin Funchess has to be a reliable target for Cam Newton. A lot to ask of a rookie in his professional debut but Ted Ginn and Corey Brown are currently atop the Panthers’ wide receiver depth chart, no bueno. Opponents will game plan to limit Greg Olsen’s effectiveness and the box will be stacked to defend Jonathan Stewart and Newton in the running game. Funchess is a big target, just how Cam like’s it but he’s going to have to grow up in a hurry and supplant Ginn and Brown atop the depth chart during this matchup.
2. Jonathan Stewart must make DeAngelo Williams a distant memory. Despite Williams’ impressive showing on Thursday night for Pittsburgh, Stewart has been the better, albeit oft-injured, running back in Carolina for the past couple of seasons. Now it’s a solo act. The Panthers’ offensive line is a question mark coming into this matchup and I can’t imagine the receivers getting open in a hurry considering the dearth of talent at the position so it will be up to Stewart to take the pressure off the Panthers’ passing game.
3. Carolina’s defense has to dominate. The Jaguars improved the talent along their offensive line during the offseason but it’s up to the Panthers to determine just how much that unit has improved. The Jaguars are young offensively and not particularly explosive. Crowd the line of scrimmage, confuse 2nd year quarterback Blake Bortles and put him on his back.
3 Things for the Jaguars to win
1. Blake Bortles must protect the football. It’s hard enough to win football games when you lose the turnover margin but when you are a young offense lacking in experience and unaccustomed to success you had better protect the football. Head coach Gus Bradley’s team will fight defensively, it will be up to the player that touches the ball on every snap offensively to ensure that defense isn’t placed in unfavorable positions.
2. Take advantage of what many (including myself) believe will be a pedestrian passing attack and porous offensive line. The Jaguars are missing some key pieces along their defensive front due to injury but “next man up.” Control the line of scrimmage and control the outcome of this football game.
3. Confidence. You’re not going to win this matchup if you “hope” to win. Trust your preparation, ability and “expect” to win the contest. Punch your opponent in the mouth.
What to watch for…
Blake Bortle’s development or lack thereof. I didn’t like what I saw from Bortles last year. Not that I expected him to set the league on fire but there just didn’t appear to be any improvement from the time he replaced Chad Henne as the starter to the final week of the regular season. Look for Bortles to not only improve throughout the 2015 season but improve quarter-to-quarter in the game.
The Front Office Says…
The Carolina Panthers win.