BOSTON (CBS) – All of a sudden the Patriots’ Monday night game against the Carolina Panthers next week doesn’t look so easy.
Everybody thought the Panthers were winning games but weren’t doing so against the talented teams of the NFL. Well, on Sunday, they beat the San Francisco 49ers, in San Fran, holding them to just 151 yards of total offense.
I guess we can now say these Carolina Panthers are indeed “for real.”
Defensively, the Panthers will send a three-headed monster at the Patriots. On the ends they bring the heat with Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, who both recorded more than 10 sacks last season and are on pace to do it again (Johnson has 8.5 sacks and Hardy has six through nine games). They are the best bookends in the NFL, and are both young and hungry.
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In the middle of that defense is Boston College alum Luke Kuechly, who was last year’s defensive rookie of the year. People are already saying he’s the best middle linebacker in the game, and come Monday, everyone that got to see him do his thing at BC will get to see how fast and all-over-the-field he is at the NFL level.
As for the Carolina offense, they may be ranked 29th in the NFL in passing offense but there is one big weapon the Patriots will have to worry about.
New England has faced a quarterback like Cam Newton (who can beat you through the air or on the ground) before, but his connection with Steve Smith is a special one. A 13-year veteran, Smith has been doing this for a long time and he’s been doing it at a high level. Newton has targeted him 76 times this season, resulting in 42 receptions for 450 yards and three touchdowns. Up to this point, Smith is going to be the best slot receiver the Pats will have faced this season.
Kyle Arrington usually gets the receiver in the slot but Smith is so good, he may require Aqib Talib-type coverage. Let’s just hope Talib is ready to play.
Follow Levan Reid on Twitter @LevanReid.
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