A Week 9 collapse saw the Green Bay Packers post their weakest offensive performance of the season, when they traveled to Carson, California, to take on the struggling Los Angeles Chargers. Now, new head coach Matt LaFleur and future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers will try to get back on track when they host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The Panthers are entering a new era, after they placed quarterback Cam Newton on the injured reserve list earlier in the week. The move likely ended the 30-year-old, nine-year veteran’s Carolina career. Back in 2015, Newton led the Panthers to a 15-1 regular season record and a Super Bowl berth (and loss to the Denver Broncos).
But this season, the Panthers have relied primarily on Kyle Allen, who signed with Carolina before the 2018 season as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M. Allen has propelled the team to all five of its victories in 2019, according to Pro Football Reference. Meanwhile, Newton was under center for two of the Panthers’ three losses.
More important for the Packers, however, Carolina’s defense has been mediocre this season, allowing 204 points, 15th-most in the NFL, placing the Panthers just below the middle of the pack.
Rodgers blamed his own team rather than the opponent for last week’s 26-11 drubbing.
“It was such a different feeling. We just didn’t have that normal juice,” Rodgers said, as quoted by The Associated Press. “There was obviously something that threw us off a little bit energetically.”
Watch a preview of Sunday’s Panthers-Packers game, courtesy of the NFL Network, in the video below.
The Panthers were crushed by the still-undefeated San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago, 51-13. But they bounced back impressively last week on the strength of two rushing touchdowns by Christian McCaffrey, plus another McCaffrey TD on a reception from Allen, as the Panthers defeated the Tennessee Titans 30-20. Carolina has now won five of its last six games.
But that hasn’t been good enough to earn them the position of favorites against 7-2 Green Bay. According to the USA Today Sports Book Wire, the Panthers come in as 4 1/2-point underdogs at Lambeau Field. Carolina has won just twice there in six tries since the two teams first faced off in 1997.
If Carolina is going to pull off the upset, however, it will likely be McCaffrey driving the offense. Green Bay ranks a lowly 27th in the NFL defending against the run, allowing 127.7 yards per game. Carolina’s ground game, on the other hand, ranks 7th, gaining 132.9 yards per game. McCaffrey alone accounts for an NFL-leading 110.1 of those, on average. The 23-year-old out of Stanford University has also run for 10 of his 13 touchdowns.
The Panthers vs. Packers game kicks off at 3:25 p.m. CST, and will air across most of the United States on the Fox Network.