MVP’s Battle

NFC Game Of The Week

Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers

Packers: It’s been quite the season for Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay Packers. Early on, they were rolling and then comes week six which potentially changed the entire dynamic of their whole season when Aaron Rodgers went down and took a really bad hit from a Vikings defender. It was later reported that the star quarterback broke his collarbone and he could potentially miss the rest of the 2017 NFL season. This is the second time in four years that the same injury has occurred and when he’s out, you see an immediate difference within the Packers offense. I really think he’s the most important player on his team because they really look lost without him. With him in the lineup, they average close to 29 points per game and without him, they are a team that averages about 14-15 points a game. Brett Hundley didn’t do as bad as people thought he would and I thought the Packers kept trying to use him in the same capacity as they would Aaron and you just can’t do that. Let the kid play his own game and when he did, things opened up for the Packers offense. They were able to run the football a bit more consistently, Hundley was making plays and their defense has played much better as of late because they aren’t playing that blitz zone scheme and they’re playing man to man across the board and it’s working but then, they came back to reality on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Let’s just say that should’ve been a loss for the Packers because ultimately at the end, the Browns did as they always do at the end of football games and they turned the ball over and hurt themselves. The Packers have done just enough to stay afloat in the NFC playoff picture and on Sunday, number 12 returns.

Panthers: After struggling in their last two games against the Jets and Saints, the Panthers finally got back in the win column and snapped the Vikings eight-game winning streak to keep their playoff chances alive and if the postseason started, they’d be the five seed in the NFC playoffs. The one thing that’s standing out about the Panthers right now is they’re healthy. Greg Olsen is down right now and having him healthy would make all the difference because he’s a trusted target of Cam’s and every quarterback has that safety valve and he just happens to be his and it seems as if Newton does better when he doesn’t have a key guy of his. For the last month or so of the season, I’ve been stating that another guy outside of Cam Newton needed to establish a consistent running game and he had to be the leading rusher and finally, someone else was at the top of the stat sheet as the team’s top rusher as Jonathan Stewart stepped it up and had a big game. He only had 16 carries, but he rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns on the day with 6.4 yards per rush average. This is exactly what they needed because it takes pressure off of Cam to do it all. The Panthers have been one of more improved teams of 2017. Last year, they struggled big time to protect Cam and because of that, he was pressing to get rid of the football meaning he would simply throw it in the air up for grabs and usually when a quarterback makes those passes, it usually results in a turnover. I’d rather take the sack or throw it out of bounds because you still have the football when you think about. This team has no problem getting to the quarterback! In fact, they are one of the very best when it comes to rushing the passer and the secondary has improved greatly. They’ll look to keep winning when the Packers come to town on Sunday.

Packers Player To Watch: Randall Cobb– All three of the Packers receivers should be happy that Aaron Rodgers is back on the field, but I think this guy may be the absolute happiest. The Packers passing game I think is at its best when he’s getting the football because he can do a plethora of things for this offense. He lines up in the slot, he makes the toughest catches over the middle, he can run the deep route and he lines up out the backfield. He’s almost like that safety valve for Rodgers.

Panthers Player To Watch: Jonathan Stewart– When you face the best of the best quarterbacks in the business, what’s the best way to keep them off the field? Through the running game! This guy had a big game last week, and he will need to be back on his A-game again this week with the Packers coming to town. Let Cam be the quarterback and you take the pressure off of him to run the ball and not allow him to be your leading rusher. Your offense will benefit.

Final Analysis: What a storyline coming into this game with Aaron back under center for the Packers. This is also a matchup of two of the last three MVP’s on one field. It’s key that the Panthers convert on third-down as the Packers are one of the worst third down defenses in the NFL this season. Keeping Cam protected will also be a big-time factor for Carolina. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are two of the shining stars on the Packers defense and they will be bringing the pressure early and often. The Packers have to be much more disciplined in this one. They played sloppy football in Cleveland on Sunday. I also feel the Packers need to come out and run the ball so it’s not all on Rodgers as it usually is. Balance will play a major factor in this one for the Packers.

Prediction: Panthers 34 Packers 31