Photo courtesy of Carolina Panthers
On Nov. 10, 2019, snowfall began to cover Lambeau Field. With four seconds left in the fourth quarter, Kyle Allen handed the ball off to Christian McCaffrey, who was stopped inches short of the goalline. The Green Bay Packers held off the Carolina Panthers, 24-16.
On Saturday, McCaffrey will most likely not have a chance to redeem himself. Carolina head coach Matt Rhule doubts McCaffrey’s availability, even though he has yet to rule his star running back out of the game.
The Panthers, however, activated DJ Moore from the COVID list, and this playmaker will suit up on Saturday night.
Things have not gone well for Carolina in Rhule’s first season. Since a 3-2 start, the Panthers have lost seven of eight games. They come in with a record of 4-9.
Green Bay on the other hand, currently occupies the top spot in the NFC. The Packers are 10-3. The teams meet on Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. in a nationally televised contest on NFL Network.
Keys to the Game
Offense: Fourth Quarter Bridgewater
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has to step up late in games. Bridgewater has come under fire this week after a subpar performance against the Denver Broncos.
Most notably, Bridgewater went against the coaches’ decision to not run a third down play before the two-minute warning, which was an incompletion. He then threw the ball two yards down the field on 4th-and-10.
Bridgewater has not been clutch this season. The Panthers have lost seven games by one score and Bridgewater has not led a single game-winning drive.
Each loss brings the Panthers closer to the top of the NFL Draft and increases the likelihood that a quarterback is placing a Panthers’ hat on his head on April 29, 2021.
Bridgewater has to prove that he is a franchise quarterback. He has to prove that he is capable of leading this team to late-game victories over the final three games of this season.
Defense: Third Downs
Defensively, the Panthers have to get off of the field on third down. The Panthers are the second-worst team in the league at stopping teams on third down.
Opponents are thriving with a 50.6% conversion rate on third down. Defensive coordinator, Phil Snow, acknowledged this weakness in his press conference on Thursday, calling the struggles the defense’s “Achilles heel.”
On the other hand, the Packers are second best in the league, converting 49.7% of third downs. Their offense is humming, with running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Davante Adams back healthy.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is putting up MVP-caliber numbers. The Packers’ offense is putting up a ridiculous 31.5 points per game — best in the NFL. Just imagine if they had drafted a wide receiver instead of a third-string quarterback or running back in the first or second round…
In all seriousness, the Packers’ offense is going to be almost impossible to stop. The Panthers’ defensive playmakers are going to have to step up on third down to make it a close game.
Carolina has not been playing well of late. Given the home field, cold weather, what’s at stake and advantage at quarterback, it’s hard to go against the Packers in this one.
Prediction: Green Bay 35, Carolina 24