Week 12 Tale Of The Tape: Carolina Panthers at Oakland Raiders

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 17: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers throws a pass against the New Orleans Saints in the third quarter during the game at Bank of America Stadium on November 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 21: Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders warms up on the field prior to the game against the Houston Texans at Estadio Azteca on November 21, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
  • Quarterback
    It has been a challenging year for 2015 MVP Cam Newton, and he is going to have to be at his best if the Panthers are going to come up with a victory in Oakland. Newton has not gotten much protection from his offensive line, and he has been hit hard on a regular basis. Newton has an 11-7 TD-interception ratio and his completion percentage is just 56.5 percent.
    Derek Carr is a legitimate MVP candidate because he is a smart, gutsy and talented passer who often is at his best when the game is on the line. Carr has displayed excellent mobility in the pocket, and while he is usually not looking to run, he can escape the rush and buy time for his receivers. Carr is an accurate passer who knows how to attack the weak spots in the defense.
  • Offense
    The Panthers want to soften up opposing defenses with the running of Jonathan Stewart, who can cause quite a bit of damage when he gets on a roll. While he is not the fastest running back, he has an impressive forward lean and can punish tacklers. Greg Olsen is one of the NFL’s best tight ends, while Kelvin Benjamin has been improving this season and getting back to his pre-injury form.
    The best aspect of the Raiders’ offensive improvement this season has been the versatility of its gameplan. Latavius Murray did not get off to a great start, but he has come back to form and is running with speed and power. Amari Cooper is a game-breaking receiver who can make crucial catches while Michael Crabtree knows how to get open and make big plays.
  • Defense
    The Panthers have struggled on defense this season, and that’s been somewhat shocking since that was the most consistent aspect to last year’s Super Bowl team. Luke Kuechly is once again in the league’s concussion protocol and it is unlikely he will play in this game. Thomas Davis is a vicious hitter who can pick up the slack.
    The Raiders have been fairly easy to move the ball against throughout the season, but there is some reason to think that they will show more fight in this area the rest of the season. Pass rusher Khalil Mack is one of the best defensive players in the league and he is coming on after a slow start. Free safety Reggie Nelson has excellent instincts and can make athletic plays in the secondary.
  • Special Teams
    The Panthers have not performed impressively on special teams, and that’s somewhat surprising since head coach Ron Rivera has a slew of top-level athletes on his side. PK Graham Gano is slightly better than average, having made 18-of-22 FG attempts.
    The Raiders generally get the job done on special teams, as their coverage teams generally do a good job. PK Sebastian Janikowski has been ordinary this year, but the veteran knows how to come through when the game is on the line. Marquette King is one of the game’s best punters.
The Panthers are playing somewhat better than they did early in the season, but they rarely play 60 minutes of solid football. Look for the Raiders to take advantage of this.