I'm a little more nervous about this game than I should be. The Green Bay Packers opened the season with arguably the best offense. Football Outsiders ranked their Week 1 performance at No. 1 overall (with the Patriots a close 2nd). They travel to Carolina to face a defense that got torched by the Cardinals and QB Kevin Kolb in their season's opener, and they just lost one of their best players on defense. Plus it should be a mild September day which will only help Aaron Rodgers's accuracy and timing with his receivers. They scored 42 points last week against the Saints (well, only 35 on offense), and there's no reason they can't have a repeat performance.
What's got me so nervous is the injury to CB Tramon Williams. He's listed as questionable, but he hasn't practiced all week so he's obviously hurting. I think I'd rather see anyone other than CB Jarrett Bush replace him, but it's assumed he's the replacement and I'd be surprised if it was anyone else. Ty Dunne wrote that Bush "made plays throughout training camp" but he looked just as lost in coverage as usual during this preseason's games. Maybe Dunne was talking about practice. Even with Williams last week, the Packers defense was ripped apart by QB Drew Brees and the Saints receivers.
QB Cam Newton did a great job against the Cardinals on deep passes to WR Steve Smith and his tight ends, which is the main area I expect to see Jarrett Bush covering. He's giving me flash backs of a disastrous game in 2009 when the Steelers torched the Packers secondary. QB Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 500 yards, and his first pass of the game was a 60 yard touchdown pass against Jarrett Bush in coverage.
The big difference between last week, and that game in 2009, was that Newton is no Brees or Roethlisberger yet. His only NFL game was against the Cardinals and their suspect pass defense. And the Packers struggles on defense last week came against one of the best players in the NFL. The defense will bounce back, Newton won't throw for over 400 yards every week, and everything will be OK. That's the most likely scenario, even if my nerves are warning me of danger.
Even with Newton on fire, the Panthers only scored 21 points last week. I know what both offenses can do, and I'll expect the best from each of them, which should still give the advantage to the Packers. Packers 35, Panthers 21.