The Patriots go back out on the road for the second week in a row to take on the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte for an opportunity to go over .500 since the opening week of 2020. It has been a long time and it won’t be easy but it is definitely a winnable game if the team comes in prepared and cuts down on mistakes.
This should be a game dominated by the defenses. The Panthers have a nice blend of youth and experience and have a very fast, flowing defense (more to that below). With the chance of opening a three-game winning streak, the Patriots enter on a high note.
This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will handle play-by-play duties with Adam Archuleta as the color analyst. AJ Ross will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the radio (98.5 The Sportshub), Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello
The Patriots (4-4) beat the Los Angeles Chargers 27-24 on the road last week. Adrian Phillips (last week’s NFL DPOW) had a pair of interceptions, including a pick-six.
The Panthers (4-4) beat the Atlanta Falcons 19-13, picking off Matt Ryan twice, however QB Sam Darnold took a big hit in the game and is in concussion protocol.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2021 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out. So, here is our look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.
First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs Panthers Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Carolina
The Patriots’ running game has been good but not great this season. Damien Harris had rushed for 100 yards the previous two games but was held to 80 yards and a TD last week against the Chargers. But he had two long runs (51 yards and a TD), called back for holding calls. Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden will also see some carries.
Carolina’s defense has been excellent this season, allowing only 106.8 yards per game (13th in the league), but are 2nd overall in yards allowed with 295.6 yards per game. Carolina’s front seven is very good with Brian Burns, DaQuan Jones, Derrick Brown, and very athletic linebackers including Shaq Thompson and Jermaine Carter.
Those slow-developing stretch runs won’t work against this fast-flowing defense. If the Patriots are to be successful, they’ll have to win the battle up front and run right at them. Is it a winnable matchup? Yes, but the OL will have to be on their “A-Game”.
Patriots WRs vs Panthers Secondary – Razor’s Edge Carolina
The Patriots’ passing game has been slowly improving but still has a long way to go. Mac Jones has done well spreading the ball around, but he’ll have to get the ball out quickly and more accurately this week.
The Panthers’ secondary is very, very talented and they’ve recently added former Patriots DPOY Stephon Gilmore who intercepted a pass in limited snaps a week ago. A.J. Bouye, Donte Jackson, and Keith Taylor are the other corners who are allowing just 189 yards per game, second in the league. Safety Jeremy Chinn is also outstanding on the back end. The Panthers’ pass rush will bear watching as they’ve garnered 21 sacks on the season.
Next up is the Carolina offense:
Panthers RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ run defense is among the middle of the pack (16th) allowing an average of 112 yards per game. Lawrence Guy and Christian Barmore have been outstanding, the rookie DT is rapidly emerging as an impact player. The overall play of the linebackers (with the exception of Matthew Judon) has been inconsistent.
The Panthers running game averages about 114 yards per game but a good chunk of that belongs to QB Sam Darnold. Since Christian McCaffrey has been on IR the running game has been handled by Chuba Hubbard, who lacks the big play ability of McCaffrey.
McCaffrey was activated off of IR on Wednesday but it isn’t a given yet (Thursday morning) that he will play, his activation does, however, start his 21-day window. The Panthers are hoping that he will be able to play and if he does, it could be a game-changer. But for now, this is a matchup the Patriots should win.
Panthers WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ secondary is coming off of back-to-back strong games and should be able to handle the passing game of Carolina, especially if Darnold isn’t available this week. After a nice three-game winning streak to start the season, Darnold has steadily trended down and lost four in a row. He was better last week but in lieu of him, Carolina will go with P.J. Walker who is just 3-15 for 33 yards this season and is just 35-71 for 401 yards with 1 TD and 5 INTs in his career. He has a decent group of receivers with D.J. Moore (50 receptions, 645 yards, 3TDs), Robby Anderson, and Hubbard out of the backfield.
The Patriots pass rush led by Matthew Judon and Josh Uche should have a big day going against an OL with questions. They’ve allowed 24 sacks.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ Nick Folk has been money all season. Don’t look now by Gunner Olszewski is heating up. After three punt returns of 20+ yards last week, he’s now 2nd in the league in that category.
Carolina kicker Zane Gonzalez has been solid and made 13-15 field goal attempts. Punter Lachlan Edwards replaced an injured Joseph Charlton and was solid a week ago. Their return game has been stuck in neutral, but their coverage units have been solid.
Next up, who wins and why…
This week’s game is an opportunity to get back over.500 and the team should approach this one as a near playoff-type game. Things have seemingly turned around after the team won two in a row.
Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:
This is a “North-South” Game – The Patriots are playing a fast, athletic defense. Those horizontal runs and short passes will go nowhere. As much as the Panthers blitz, they are NOT susceptible to the screen game and will eat those alive.
The Patriots have to attack north-south and as soon a catch is made, the receivers have to turn up the field and take what is there. Consider this game plan a redux of the Super Bowl against the Seahawks.
Bring Pressure on the Panthers’ QB – The Patriots are facing a substandard OL this week and quite possibly a backup QB with very limited experience. They need to force the issue and force him into making mistakes. Matthew Judon and Josh Uche should figure prominently here this week.
Offense Has to Have a Clean Game – The Patriots have had ball security issues all season. Facing a team with a limited offense, they can’t be giving them the benefit of short fields. And with a defense as tough as Carolina’s the last thing they need is to turn the ball over in plus territory. No mental mistakes and no turnovers this week is a must.
This will be a game dominated by defense, whoever’s offense plays well enough should come away with the win here. I look for Mac Jones and the Pats offense to do just enough to come away with a tough road win. Patriots 21-17
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season
Tags: Bill Belichick Carolina Panthers Christian McCaffrey Devin McCourty Jamie Collins Kyle Van Noy Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Sam Darnold Shaq Thompson