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Carolina Panthers Week 7: A Cautious Look Ahead

Are The Panthers A Good Football Team? Absolutely Not.

Do The Panthers Have A Playoff Caliber Roster? Not Even Remotely.

However, This Team Is Undefeated In The NFC South.

With a win against Tampa Bay this Sunday, the Panthers would find themselves 2-0 in the division with four games remaining. Depending on your philosophy, that’s either a good thing or a bad thing; the idea of a new college quarterback suiting up in the silver and blue with a new Head Coach is tantalizingly close. More losses equal a lower pick, and a lower pick equals a shiny new QB.

Opening as a ten-point underdog at home is more than concerning; however, this Bucs team is mortal. This is a rare statement considering who plays quarterback, but Tampa Bay is dealing with some growing pains of their own. Their .500 record proves that injuries can be costly to win totals, and the Bucs have plenty of those. The offensive line has been porous, receiver play has been inconsistent, and their running game has seemingly dried up.

Brady and crew have put up 39 points these last two weeks combined, against the Falcons and Steelers. That doesn’t exactly resemble a dangerous offense, not to mention Brady hasn’t surpassed 250 yards in a single game yet this season which is cause for optimism for this Panthers defense. Furthermore, the Bucs are dead last in total rushing offense, with just over 400 yards on the ground.

Panthers’ injury concerns

While that opens the door in Carolina, a fully healthy Panthers team will be nowhere to be found on Sunday. The soonest Chinn can return is week 9 after his IR designation, while Horn, Jackson, Luvu, Henderson, and Littleton are all questionable for week 7. While I expect some of these guys to play, I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little worried in the secondary, with the likes of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin available this could be Tampa’s get right game.

My biggest concern is stopping the run, particularly outside of the tackles. If Horn and Jackson are missing, I expect Todd Bowles to expose our tackles outside of the hashes. Those two do an excellent job stopping RB bounces with physical tackling but trusting CJ Henderson and a combination of Keith Taylor and whomever else we decide to start is terrible news.

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Along the front seven, we have to find a way to collapse the pocket and I have my eyes fully on Derrick Brown. If he can penetrate along the interior, get hands in Brady’s face, and fill against the run this Bucs team won’t have much fun. We know what Burns can do as a speed rusher, but I want to see him step up as a run-stopper. There’s no reason someone of his skill level should be getting reach blocked and taken out of a play. Keep Tampa Bay’s run game between the tackles, let Luvu show his physicality, and force Brady to move the sticks.

Concerning the Panther’s offense, depending on who gets the start, we have few options outside of Christian McCaffrey. PJ Walker’s average depth of target against the Rams was in the negatives—while coaching was as much to blame as talent, that isn’t winning football.

Coaching is a discussion for another time, but the Panthers can’t win against teams without stretching the field. Feeding McCaffrey is the right idea, but a lack of downfield threat doesn’t allow us to manipulate defenses and find positive matchups. Tampa Bay can let their defense sit in a zone, keep everything in front of them and shrink the field. A smaller field creates smaller windows, which is never a good thing for a struggling quarterback.

The Panthers still aren't sure how healthy their quarterback depth chart is at the moment, so they can't really know what it's going to look like Sunday. With more on the statuses of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and PJ Walker. — Darin Gantt (@daringantt) October 17, 2022

Panthers fans are living in a cruel reenactment of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, except instead of a day its an entire season, and rather than Punxatawny it’s Charlotte. After the season ends, we wake up and do it all over again; we relive poor quarterback play, question various coaching decisions and decide if it’s more in our favor to win or lose.

“There is no way that this winter [rebuild] is ever going to end as long as this grounhod keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s got to be stopped…” Phil Conners, Groundhog Day (1993)

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