We spoke with a Carolina Panthers expert to hear more about the upcoming matchup against the Chiefs.
The Kansas City Chiefs are preparing for the Carolina Panthers to visit in Week 9, a contest that officially begins the second half of the 2020 regular season. So far, the Chiefs have taken care of their opponents as expected and then some, as they stand alone at the top of the AFC West by a comfortable margin.
The Panthers are themselves hoping to stop the bleeding after a three-game losing streak pulled the rug out from under a three-game winning streak. At one point, Teddy Bridgewater and company were 3-2, but now they are 3-5 and coming off a drubbing by the pitiful Atlanta Falcons.
We recently asked Dean Jones, site expert of Cat Crave, to tell us more about the Panthers at this point—how they are coming along in Matt Rhule’s first season as head coach and what we should expect on Sunday.
It seems the Panthers were turning heads earlier this year by being so unexpectedly competitive, from an outside perspective here. Then the egg was laid against the Falcons. What do you make of the Panthers in Matt Rhule’s first season? What’s working well so far?
I think it’s been what I expected, in all honesty. They went through so many changes in the offseason, it was always going to be difficult. Not having Christian McCaffrey hasn’t helped and the three-game winning streak heightened expectations perhaps to a level this roster isn’t capable of reaching at this stage of their development.
There is plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Their record could also look different had they come through in close games, but there is a lot to like about their chances going forward providing Matt Rhule and others make the right moves next spring.
The head coach has got them all pulling in the right direction, which is the biggest positive of all.
What isn’t working well?
Third downs are a real problem for the Panthers, on both sides of the ball. They are having a hard time getting off the field on defense, which is down to Phil Snow’s soft coverage scheme that has been implemented due to a lack of real depth at the position.
The offense also needs to do a better job of moving the chains in critical moments. They appear to be falling just short of what is required compared to those teams in postseason contention, but it’s easy to forget this is still a work in progress.
Will we see CMC?
The early signs are positive, but Christian McCaffrey isn’t going to get anything like the sort of workload we are used to seeing. The Panthers are being extremely cautious with their star player with nothing much at stake this season, and I wouldn’t expect this to stop just because he’s been medically cleared to play.
What’s this team’s biggest need at this point?
I think there are a few needs. The Panthers need to find a long-term replacement for Luke Kuechly as it’s clear Tahir Whitehead isn’t it. They also need a tight end who could get somewhere close to Greg Olsen’s production and a defensive tackle to put alongside Derrick Brown would be another given that it doesn’t look like Kawann Short will turn out for the team again.
What’s going to be K.C.’s biggest advantage in this game?
I think their weapons in the passing game could cause some real damage. As stated previously, the Panthers are playing with a soft zone more often than not to prevent big yardage. But this could see plenty of opportunities for the likes of Travis Kelce and Mecole Hardman to find space at the second level and gain some solid numbers.
Running off the tackles is another area that causes some concern, especially with the recent addition of Le’Veon Bell to an already elite offense.
What’s going to be the biggest test?
Carolina has a lot of faults, but their wide receiver trio of Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel are up there with anything in the NFL talent-wise. All three have the capability to turn a game on its head with the ball in their hands and Teddy Bridgewater has developed some nice chemistry with them providing he gets the right sort of protection.
The Chiefs have some playmakers of their own in the secondary, don’t get me wrong. But this might be the best collective group they’ll face this season in my opinion.