The Carolina Panthers finished an NFL-worst 2-14 last season. While they appear to be an improved team, it is yet to show up in the win column.
Carolina will try to avoid an 0-3 start for a third straight season when it hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday. Odds makers believe the Panthers will find the win column. They are listed as a 3.5-point favorite with the total set at 42.5.
Carolina gave the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers all they wanted and more for a half as the Panthers took a 13-7 lead into halftime. The second half was all Green Bay, but the Panthers deserve a lot of credit for hanging in there. They scored a touchdown with 37 second remaining in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 30-23 and to earn a backdoor cover.
No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton was the story for the Panthers in their season-opening loss at Arizona, and he was the story again in Week 2. Newton completed 60.9 percent of his throws for 432 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 53 yards and a score on 10 carries. He did throw three interceptions.
Newton could be poised for another big game through the air this week against the Jaguars, who allowed Mark Sanchez to complete 70.8 percent of his throws in last week’s 32-3 defeat to the New York Jets.
A weak pass rush has held the Jags back in recent years. They only managed to sack Sanchez once last Sunday and could be in serious trouble if they’re not able to put more heat on Newton.
Jacksonville desperately needs two-time Pro Bowl end Aaron Kampman on the field, but he could miss a third straight game as he recovers from his second ACL tear in as many years. He is currently listed as doubtful for Sunday’s contest.
While Carolina’s offense, which was the worst in the league in 2010, has nearly done a 180, the defense is yet to perform at the level it did when it ranked 18th in the league with 335.9 yards allowed per game last year. The Panthers currently rank 26th in the NFL with 406.5 yards allowed per contest.
The Carolina stop unit must be able to slow down Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jacksonville running attack in order to come out on top. Jones-Drew currently ranks seventh in the league with 185 rushing yards. He ran for 88 yards on 4.9 yards per carry against a New York defense that ranked third in the NFL against the run in 2010.
The Panthers were gashed on the ground last week, giving up 124 net rushing yards on 5.9 yards a rush.
These two 1995 expansion teams have met four times with Jacksonville winning three of the meetings. They met most recently in Jacksonville on Dec. 9, 2007 with the Jags winning 37-6.
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