The Carolina Panthers enter their Week 10 home tilt against the Kansas City Chiefs riding a two-game winning streak after escaping Hollywood with a 13-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams last week. The Panthers’ record currently sits at 3-5, and every game from now to the end of the season is of utmost importance if the team is to reach the playoffs.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) November 7, 2016
The 6-2 Chiefs will travel to Charlotte on the heels of a four-game winning streak that includes a 19-14 Week 9 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Backup quarterback Nick Foles started in place of Alex Smith during that game, but Smith is expected to be the starting quarterback against the Panthers. Running back Spencer Ware is also expected to return after a concussion kept him out against the Jaguars.
Spencer Ware passes concussion protocol and returns to practice.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) November 9, 2016
In other injury news, Jeremy Maclin’s status is up in the air after suffering a groin injury against Jacksonville. According to NBC Sports, Maclin didn’t practice on Wednesday, and it’s unclear when or if he will be able to practice this week. Linebacker Justin Houston is also expected to be activated from injured reserve on Wednesday, but he won’t play against the Panthers.
— Matt Derrick (@mattderrick) November 9, 2016
Will the Carolina Panthers extend their winning streak to three games and get back in the playoff picture? Or will the Kansas City Chiefs make it five consecutive wins and keep pace with the Oakland Raiders in the AFC West?
Find out in these bold predictions.
Jonathan Stewart Gets At Least 20 Carries
The Panthers are most successful when they are able to run the ball consistently. Last week, Stewart got 15 carries against the Los Angeles Rams but was only able to produce 42 yards as the Panthers’ offensive line got destroyed in the trenches by the Rams’ front-seven. The Chiefs are 27th in the NFL as they allow 124.5 rushing yards per game, and the Panthers should try to exploit that on Sunday.
Spencer Ware Will Be Held Under 50 Yards Rushing
Defensively, the Panthers have played much better over recent weeks, and a big part of that is the interior of the defensive line. Carolina has the third-ranked run defense is the NFL, with only 77.5 rushing yards allowed per game. Last week, the unit held Todd Gurley to 12 carries for 48 yards en route to a 13-10 victory. Expect the same type of production from Ware.
Panthers Will Record A Minimum Of 5 Sacks
The Panthers recorded 12 sacks through their first six games of the season, but they’ve taken it to another level over the last two weeks, as they’ve recorded another 12 against the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams. Despite the 24 team sacks, the team leader is defensive tackle Star Lotulelei with four. The defensive coordinator sends a variety of different blitzes and uses different rotations to get pressure which makes it hard on offenses to block.
Kelvin Benjamin Will Electrify
Kansas City Chiefs corner Marcus Peters is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with five, but he doesn’t typically shadow opposing receivers. Look for the Panthers to play Benjamin on the opposite side of the formation in order to get their best receiver matched up against Phillip Gaines. Kelvin should have a big day against the Chiefs on Sunday.
Carolina Wins A Low-Scoring Affair
Neither of these teams has a great offense, but they both possess tremendous defenses which should mean a defensive slugfest will take place in Charlotte on Sunday. With the Carolina Panthers finally beginning to figure things out a bit, look for the home team to emerge with a 20-14 victory that will propel them into the NFC playoff picture.
[Featured Image by Harry How/Getty Images]