By Steven Santos
Coming off an exciting victory on Sunday, the New England Patriots are now looking forward to a matchup with the Carolina Panthers, a team they haven’t faced in the regular season since 2013. Tom Brady and the Patriots were magical at the end of last week’s game against the Houston Texans, manufacturing a 75-yard game winning touchdown drive, capped off with a sensational catch from new acquisition Brandin Cooks.
In spite of the victory, the defense left a lot to be desired, letting up 33 points to a team with a rookie quarterback at the helm, and in their home field of Gillette Stadium. It’s something that has been a topic of concern with Dont’a Hightower, a first-time defensive captain, still out of action since his week one injury. The team is hoping he will be ready to suit up for Sunday’s matchup, as he will be needed against the speed of young rookie Christian McCaffrey, and quarterback Cam Newton.
Although Cam Newton has struggled so far, this season, the 2015 MVP winner has proven what he is capable of on the football field. If the Patriots are able to limit Newton from scrambling and extending plays out of the pocket, they will put themselves in a great position to add to the win column.
On the other side of the ball, the Panthers defense has proven themselves to be solid for such a young unit. They have a solid mix of stars and experienced vets such as Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Julius Peppers, all who could make Tom Brady’s day just a little bit tougher come Sunday.
Last Sunday however, the Panthers struggled to contain the run game of the New Orleans Saints, and could be an area of attack for the Patriots offense. According to the Charlotte Observer, they allowed 5.5 rushing yards per play, which could be something that Bill Belichick will look to abuse if that rate continues.
For the Patriots, if the offense plays like it did on Sunday, regardless of who the Panthers have, they may be unstoppable. Tom Brady threw for 378 passing yards, increasing his league high total to 1,092 yards on the season. He also added 5 touchdowns to his total, his high of the season so far. First year Patriot, Brandin Cooks, also had a huge game of his own with 5 receptions for 131 yards and 2 of Brady’s 5 total touchdowns. All of this lead to a 36-point explosion that they’re hoping to recreate come Sunday. According to patriots.com, the Patriots own an NFL best 53-17 record in the month of October since the 2000 season. They also own a 49-12 record vs. NFC teams, such as the Panthers, since 2002. Both of these stats point towards good fortune for the Patriots; make sure to catch the action Sunday, October 1st at 1pm.