After having last weekend off as a BYE, the Panthers will return to work today and face their toughest test yet this season.
At 6-0, the San Francisco 49ers are the only unbeaten team left in the NFC, and boast a lot of talent on both sides of the ball – both between their roster talent and smart coaching.
Carolina will come into this game as underdogs viewing this as a chance to make a huge statement to the rest of the league, here’s how they can help themselves to do it.
1. Ball Security.
We have all seen Kyle Allen struggle so far this season at managing to keep the ball off the floor when facing pressure, something he’ll no doubt be seeing this Sunday from San Francisco’s impressive group of linemen.
In a game of 2 great Defense’s, we may not see a lot of points which means turnovers could be especially key to who comes out with a W, so number 7 will have to make sure he’s not giving away any freebies.
Not only that, but after cutting punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud due to fumbling problems, the Panthers also need to make sure they’re getting a clean exchange on special teams and not wasting any of the great work done by the Defense. Hopefully new return man Greg Dortch will be up to the task.
2. Consistently pressuring Garoppolo.
It has been hard to properly evaluate how well the Niners have protected Jimmy G this season, whilst they haven’t allowed him to be sacked much, they rank pretty low in the ‘time to throw’ category.
Garoppolo has also brought in mixed reviews so far this season, with many seeing him as a potential problem for this team further down the road after missing some pretty crucial throws and giving away some cheap turnovers to opposition.
If the Panthers can play anywhere near as well up front as they did in London 2 weeks ago, they should be able to force some serious opportunities for takeaways, and having already stated how crucial that could be in this game that could be the Panthers most likely path to victory.
3. Luke Kuechly being Luke Kuechly.
In head coach Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco may have the best play-caller and offensive mind in the league right now, with his ability to put players in a position to make plays being one of the stand out features of this team.
However, this week Shanahan will be meeting his match in the form of Linebacker Luke Kuechly, who is well known as one of the great ‘play dissectors’ in the game, able to identify a majority of the oppositions plays as soon as they have been called.
With 2 weeks to prepare and study, the Panthers need Luke at the top of his game this weekend if they want to try and stall Kyle Shanahan and his explosive offense. I certainly won’t be betting against him to pull it off.