The Panthers didn’t have much time to celebrate their season opener win against the Jaguars before having to prepare for a tougher road against the Houston Texans. With their play last week, it can be argued that Carolina left Florida with more worries that they arrived with. The loss of Luke Kuechly and an opposing defense that features JJ Watt means the Panthers must play leaps and bounds better against Houston to win.
Players to Watch
Michael Oher/Mike Remmers:
I hate to add to the JJ Watt hype, but as reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, his presence on the line and ability to wreak havoc on opponents cannot be understated. Although last week wasn’t a travesty, the Panthers’ o-line play can vastly improve and unfortunately they’ve only had a week to get better before Watt and company roll into the Queen City. Will Watt, Clowney and crew eat? If they do, it will be a LONG day for Cam Newton and Carolina’s offense, but if Oher, Remmers and the rest of the line can do enough to give Cam time to make plays, the Panthers can win their home opener.
Josh Norman was my MVP for week one and he’ll need to sustain that level of play against DeAndre Hopkins, who many thought was the Texans lone bright spot in their week-one loss against the Chiefs. Hopkins went for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns against Kansas City. This should turn out to be one of the game’s most interesting match-ups. Norman and the Panthers’ D will have to keep Hopkins in check and get a couple of takeaways to help Carolina win this one.
Carolina’s receiver problems have been well documented and their play last week did nothing to instill confidence in their ability help the Panthers offense. These doubts make establishing a ground game more important than ever and that begins with Jonathan Stewart – who looked good during the first half of last week’s game against Jacksonville. A big game from Stew and company would take a lot of pressure off Newton and help open up the offense.
With Kelvin Benjamin out for the year, Greg Olsen was supposed to blow up the stat line this season, but the Pro Bowl tight end started the year with only 1 catch for 11 yards. If Carolina will have any semblance of a formidable offense, Olsen will have to be more involved. Expect him to get more targets and yards this week. Houston struggled against Kansas’ tight end Travis Kelce last Sunday. If Carolina has a chance at winning, Olsen can’t afford to have only one catch.
Inside the Numbers
Yards Per Game
Passing Yards Per Game
Rush Yards Per Game
Total Yards Allowed Per Game
Passing Yards Per Game Allowed
Rushing Yards Per Game Allowed
Points Per Game Allowed
Prediction: This is probably considered a must win for Houston after losing to Kansas City in week 1. The only squad last year to make the playoffs after starting 0-2 was the Colts. The loss of Kuechly will hurt, but not as much as Carolina’s lack of a passing game and shaky offensive line. Texans: 23 Panthers: 14
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
TV: CBS, with Greg Gumbel and Trent Green on the call.