What to Watch For: Panthers vs Patriots

Sunday, October 01, 2017
GoLocalWorcester Sports Team

Dont'a Hightower is expected to play on Sunday
The New England Patriots (2-1) are back at Gillette Stadium on Sunday to host the (2-1) Carolina Panthers. 

The Patriots are coming off a win over the Houston Texans last week while the Panthers are coming off a loss to the New Orleans Saints. 

"Carolina is really an impressive team. I have a lot of respect for this organization. I have a lot of respect for Coach Rivera and the job that he's done there through the years. They have been remarkably consistent - consistently good at doing so many things - and that's kind of where we are this year," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his Wednesday press conference. 

Kick-off is set for 1 p.m. 

Patriots vs Carolina 

The Patriots and Panthers will meet for the first time in the regular season since 2013 and for the first time at Gillette Stadium in a regular season game since 2009. 

In the last meeting between the two teams in 2013, the Panthers edged the Patriots 24-20 on Monday Night Football.

The Patriots had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, but a pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski in the end zone fell incomplete. 

"Yeah, that was a tough game. I think that speaks a lot to their team, that particular game. It was a hard-nosed, hard-fought game. We had to earn every yard and it came down to the end," said Brady, recalling the game during his Wednesday press conference. 

The Panthers hold a 3-2 advantage over the Patriots all-time in the regular season. 

  • Offensive Line

    The offensive line is off to a shaky start this season and quarterback Tom Brady has been taking hits.

    According to NFL stats, Tom Brady has been sacked 10 times and hit 20 times so far this season.

    Last regular season, New England quarterbacks were sacked 24 times and hit 73 times.

    “I think for me more than anything I try to land more on my left shoulder than my right shoulder because you've only got one right shoulder and I need this for a lot of throws, and the more hits you take on it then the harder it is to take. I just do the best I can do. There's some luck involved, but let's go again, baby. Let's line them up and play,” said Brady in his press conference earlier this week.

    This week the Patriots go up against a defensive front that includes position Short, Star Locule, Charles Johnson and pass rusher Mario Addison.

    The Panthers have eight sacks so far this season.

  • Christian McCaffrey

    The Carolina Panthers offense comes into the game with a plethora of injuries making rookie running back Christian McCaffrey the focal point. 

    McCaffrey has 18 catches out of the backfield for 173 yards and 25 carries for 73 yards so far this season. 

    McCaffrey's backup is veteran Jonathan Stewart, who has rushed for 164 yards on 45 carries. 

    Overall, the Panthers offense has only managed three touchdowns in three games. 

    Panthers Offensive Injuries: 

    Center Ryan Kalil is out. Tight end Greg Olsen is out. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is expected to play, but is suffering from a knee injury.

    Rookie wide receiver Curtis Marsh is out with a back injury. 

  • Patriots Secondary

    Similar to last week against Houston, this game presents another opportunity for the Patriots secondary to build some confidence. 

    Carolina's top receivers coming into the game are Devin Funchess and Benjamin, who is playing with a knee injury as mentioned in above slide.

    "Benjamin's a good route runner. He uses his size and can body up the defenders, get position, catches the ball, can use his body to protect the catch. He's a clutch guy for them, third-down, red area, critical situations. He makes a lot of plays," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his Friday press conference. 

    Panthers quarterback Cam Newton hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in two games and is coming off a game against the Saints in which he threw three interceptions. 

    Newton had offseason shoulder surgery and only threw two passes in the preseason. Through three games, he has two touchdown passes and four interceptions. 

  • Dion Lewis

    Dion Lewis' role in the Patriots offense has been very limited to this point in the season. 

    So far this season, Lewis has only eight carries for 28 yards and four catches for 23 yards. In total, he has only played 32 offensive snaps for the Patriots, third most behind James White and Mike Gillislee and ahead of only Rex Burkhead, who has missed time with injury.

    "I think he's good with the ball in his hands. Good vision. Runs hard. Low center of gravity. He's a hard guy to tackle. I think you could hand him the ball in any situation. Inside, outside. He's a hard guy to tackle. And he has good vision and he can find space," said Belichick during his press conference on Friday.  

    The Patriots have struggled in short yardage situations so far this season, only 1 for 6 on Third and fourth and one, and Lewis could see an opportunity in this game. 



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