Predictions for the Week 4 Match-up of Carolina Panthers vs New England Patriots
Light hearted predictions that more than likely won’t come true.
Christian McCaffrey will have a monstrous game, combining for 150+ rushing and receiving yards. Coming off a 117 yard game against the Bills, Christian McCaffrey is set to light up the Patriots defense with his best game of the season so far. He will also score his first touchdown (1 of 2 on the day) in a mismatch catch out of the backfield against a Patriots linebacker. With Shea McCllelin out, Kyle Van Noy is the only linebacker the Patriots have who is decent in pass coverage. After last week, Mike Shula and the Panthers will come to the realization that they are going to need to lean on McCaffrey this season to generate the majority of their offense. With three games under the rookie’s belt, McCaffrey is in position to become the David Johnson-esque workhorse of the Panthers offense. This will take pressure off Cam Newton, who is clearly still recovering from injury, and allow him a valuable check-down weapon to get the ball out more quickly.
Patriots defense sacks Cam Newton five times but still has an abysmal showing characteristic of the league’s worst team in total-yards-allowed, made all the more troublesome against a Panthers offense that has been lackluster through the first three weeks of the season. The Panthers will be timid to have Newton run the ball or move outside of the pocket as Deshaun Watson was able to do to great effect in Week 3 against the Patriots. While Cam Newton adjusts to becoming a pocket passer, the quarterback will take another beating as he did against a mediocre Saints defense in Week 3 (4 sacks, 6 QB hits). As ESPN pointed out earlier in the week, the Patriots defensive struggles stem largely from an inefficient pass rush. While the Patriots rank 26th in the league in generating QB pressure, they hold opposing quarterbacks to a ~43.5 passer rating when the defense gets to the quarterback. Under no pressure (~77% of dropbacks), opposing QBs are posting a passer rating of 127.8. As Bill Barnwell points out in his article, this is the equivalent of the Patriots defense facing an opposing Tom Brady on three-quarters of QB-dropback snaps. Not a recipe for defensive success when you’re turning opposing quarterbacks into the greatest of all time.
Panthers center Ryan Kalil is out of the game tomorrow, which means Trey Flowers could have a field day on the interior pass rush (enough for 2.0 sacks). Cassius Marsh and Deatrich Wise also manage to get a sack on Cam Newton, as the Patriots overall pass rush benefits from the return of defensive captain Dont’a Hightower. Newton will be forced to hold the ball longer in the absence of stalwart tight end Greg Olson, and a banged-up Kelvin Benjamin. However, this is not a get right game for the Patriots struggling defense. They will still give up big plays on out-of-the-backfield passes to Christian McCaffrey, and fail to get off the field on key 3rd down conversions. Sacks will hold the Panthers to four field goals, but the total yardage will be indicative of a Patriots defense with significant questions to answer in the event of another title run.
Tom Brady throws for four touchdowns and continues his march to league MVP. With Panthers starting cornerback Daryl Worley out for the game, the Patriots offense will pick on his replacement all day in big-time passes to Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett. Dwayne Allen will catch his first pass of the season for ten yards and the running game will rely heavily upon the nimble cuts and pass-catching ability of James White and Dion Lewis. The offensive line will finally start to get things together with the return of OT Marcus Cannon and hold up well against a relentless Panthers front seven. However, the Patriots offensive line will give up another blind side strip sack in the second half to keep the Panthers in the game. Tom Brady will also throw his first interception of the season to Luke Kuechly on a middle of the field crossover route meant for Danny Amendola.
Patriots 31 Panthers 26