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Preview: Carolina at Green Bay

After an awful loss last week to New Orleans, the last place team in the NFC South, it's hard to stay optimistic about a game against the 1st place team, Carolina. Especially when I was soooooo wrong last week when I previewed the New Orleans game:

"The Saints match up very poorly against the Packers if they have to throw the ball a lot. They've probably had to throw a lot more in some games because they're defense has put them in a hole and they have to try and comeback. But a lot of pass attempts is just more opportunities for an interception by the outstanding Packer secondary."

The only problem QB Drew Brees had last week against the Packers' secondary was trying to figure out which open receiver to throw to. But it was only one loss, not a true indication of a secondary that had been awesome prior to this game. Let's move on.

Rankings of both teams by category from Football Outsiders and

Teams FO Ranking NFL Ranking
Packers Rushing Offense 12 20
Carolina Rushing Defense 23 17
Carolina Rushing Offense 9 7
Packers Rushing Defense 29 26
Packers Passing Offense 10 12
Carolina Passing Defense 5 8
Carolina Passing Offense 13 22
Packers Passing Defense 3 6
Carolina Special Teams 18
Packers Special Teams 12

Football Outsiders thinks these are two similar teams. They both have above average offenses, great pass defenses, and lousy run defenses. The NFL rankings vary, but those are dependent on yards and the number of rushing and passing attempts. Carolina actually has more rushing attempts then passing, so the NFL ranks their run offense a little higher and their pass offense a little lower.

The biggest difference between the two teams has been strength of schedule. Carolina has played the AFC West this season. They've gone 3-0 against San Diego, Kansas City, and Oakland. Not a tough feet against three losing teams. The Packers have played the AFC South and lost at Tennessee and beat Indianapolis. Pull the AFC games off the schedule and Carolina has only one more win than the Packers. That seems about right; Carolina is just a little better than the Packers.

Hopefully playing at home takes away that advantage. The Packers are 3-2 on the season at Lambeau. They've blown out their last two opponents at home (Indianapolis and Chicago). Unfortunately Jaxon says Carolina is going to run the ball a lot:

"If that is your weakness. Williams is the starter and will get 2/3 the carries. He’s a quicker with his moves and cuts better than Stewart. Stewart runs with more power but has speed too, but tends to try and run over people more than Williams.

The Panther run defense was awesome the firth 5 games, holding an impressive list of RB’s to less than 100 yards. They’ve slipped some since allowing both Warrick Dunn and Kevin smith to gain over 100 yards. We will be looking for a return to the tough run defense from the beginning of the season."

At least we can expect a big game for RB Ryan Grant.

The Packers need to get an early lead and make Carolina throw the ball. They also need to keep running the ball, so they can't get too far behind and expect to throw it against a great Panther secondary. It looks like it will be cold and wet on Sunday which I would expect to help the home team. I don't know what to expect, but I just want to see them play hard and bounce back from a lousy loss.