Saturday night on a primetime stage under the lights at Lambeau Field. Sprinkle in that it’s a December game in a season where the Packers currently hold the number one seed in the NFC and I’ll take a full syringe of that directly injected into my damn veins. While Green Bay’s offense will be looking to put up 30-plus points for a fifth consecutive game, what should we expect on the flip side of the coin?
The Carolina Panthers have been an odd team to put a pulse on this year. They’ve suffered a number of one score defeats, injuries to their all-pro running back Christian McCaffrey, nothing statistically that will wow you, yet they will still pop up on the radar against top-tier competition.
On offense, the results have been sporadic. If you look at the base numbers, you see a team that ranks 20th in points scored and 19th in total offense according to PFF. Yet, they have names that peak your curiosity.
They brought in Robby Anderson in the offseason, and he is four yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season. D.J. Moore, who will be returning from injury, is putting together yet another consistent season and is a focal point of any defense preparing to face the Panthers. Teddy Bridgewater was brought over to finally get an opportunity to show what he can do at the quarterback position and the results have been somewhere between average and slightly above average with nothing exceptional from Teddy.
All of that and you would conclude it’s a not so good Panthers team with a meh offense. The 4-9 would reflect and confirm that. But this has been a team that won’t go away in their losses. Take out the two defeats they have to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and every single one of their other seven losses has been by one possession.
They gave the Chiefs everything they could handle before losing 33-31. They should’ve won against the Minnesota Vikings before falling 28-27. The list goes on and on.
One reason why is the speed they have on offense. They legitimately have a case for the fastest wide receiver group outside of the squad in Kansas City. Anderson is known as a receiver who beats you with his speed. Moore, although more dynamic, is cut from a similar cloth. Throw in Curtis Samuel who they will line up anywhere, and it can be a nightmare for defenses.
Green Bay struggles more with physical teams than it does with teams that have a ton of speed. The best example to look at is when they faced the Houston Texans back in October with Deshaun Watson at quarterback with and a receiver group that, at the time, consisted of Will Fuller V, Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb. While all four had a share of targets and receptions in that game, the Packers held the Texans to 20 points and really neutralized Fuller and that offense.
Whatever the reasons may be, opposing speed can be terrifying, but the Packers appear to struggle more with teams that punch you in the mouth from the start. The Panthers best representative on offense in that department is their bowling ball running back: 5’9″, 221 pound Mike Davis. While he’s been a pleasant surprise for Carolina with Christian McCaffrey out, he’s not a running back that will completely dominate a defense.
So what should we expect when the Packers are on defense and Teddy and the Panthers have the ball?
Oddly enough, despite the speed, the Panthers haven’t been known to take a lot of deep shots this year downfield. They pick their spots. It’s probably more of an indicator of who Bridgewater is as a quarterback than what the Panthers want out of their scheme. Bridgewater is calculated. If you’re a Panthers fan, you won’t often be asking why Bridgewater made a throw that led to a mistake, but he’s also not one to pull the trigger on riskier but necessary throws. Here’s a direct correlation of that summed up:
Teddy to a tee. The Panthers have had numerous chances on final drives of games this year and couldn’t get over the hump. It’s a big reason why it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Packers lose on Saturday night.
If the Packers offense gets a lead and puts the pressure on Carolina, they are putting pressure on a team and a quarterback that haven’t shown the ability to come from behind late or the willingness to take calculated chances down the field when presented with the opportunity to do so.