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Week 9 Preview: Panthers vs. Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes - Jeffery Beall

The Panthers (3-5) will visit Arrowhead this weekend to take on the defending Super Bowl champs Kansas City Chiefs (7-1).  Carolina’s last win at Arrowhead came back in 2004.  The Chiefs hold a 4-2 advantage all-time against the Panthers.  The main challenge for Carolina will be how to slow down the high powered Kansas City offense.

Everyone knows that the Chiefs are scary good on the offensive side of the ball.  Kansas City ranks within the top 5 in the NFL in average net yards, average net passing yards, average points scored, average point differential, and third-down conversion percentage.  Patrick Mahomes leads the machine and he is having another stellar year.  The reigning Super Bowl MVP is the first player in NFL history with at least 20 passing touchdowns at 21 and one or fewer interceptions through the first eight games of the season.  Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are Mahomes main targets.  Kelce has six touchdowns on 48 receptions and is averaging 76 yards per game.  Hill has seven touchdowns on 35 receptions and has 537 receiving yards.  You can’t forget about the impressive rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.  The former LSU tiger only has two touchdowns this season but is carrying the football with purpose.  He is averaging close to five yards per rushing attempt and is used a lot in the passing game.  The addition of Le’Veon Bell a couple of weeks ago adds a one-two punch in the backfield.  What gets overlooked is how good the Chiefs are on defense.  The linebacking corps is very underrated.  Damion Williams is such a disruptive player and is on pace to have close to 100 tackles this season.  Safeties Daniel Sorenson and Tyrann Matthews are big-time playmakers.  Both have two interceptions, both have returned one of those picks for a touchdown, and both are in the top four on the team in tackles.  Overall the defense has 16 takeaways so far this season.  The one knock on the Chiefs is their rush defense.  They rank 29th in the NFL allowing almost five yards per carry and 142 rushing yards per game.

After winning three straight, the Panthers have dropped three straight.  Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s early-season success has dwindled with untimely interceptions and missed plays over the losing streak.  However, he will get some help this week with the return of Christian McCaffrey.  The franchise back has been out since week two dealing with an ankle injury.  It will be interesting to see how Head Coach Matt Rhule will use Mike Davis that filled in admirably when CMC was out.  Curtis Samuel has played well in the last two games and has been impressive when used as a running back.  Samuel is no stranger to that position. He played in the backfield while at Ohio State.  Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady has to find a way to get D.J. Moore the ball.  Moore had another sub-par game and was not targeted much against the Falcons.  It looks as though Brady may have realized that he has tight ends, so more involvement might be coming from that position.  Ian Thomas and Chris Manhertz combined for four catches against Atlanta, which is a start.  I’m sure KC has seen the tape on how often the Falcons were in Carolina’s backfield and may attack the same way.  I would look for Bridgewater to maybe do some quick dump-offs to McCaffery and Davis.  The Panthers defense will hopefully get some help with the return of cornerback Rasul Douglas and defensive rookie of the month, safety Jeremy Chinn (questionable). Those two will add a boost to the secondary but will have a tall task to slow down the Chiefs receiving corps.

I think KC has way too many offensive play-makers for Carolina to handle.  Getting back McCaffrey will no doubt give the Panthers a boost, but how often will he be on the field.  The Panthers may put a pitch count on their franchise running back.  To have a chance, Carolina needs to score early, run the ball well, and have long drives.  The least amount of time Mahomes is on the field, the better.  That may be difficult if Carolina cannot improve their third down defense.  The Panthers have forced only one punt in the last two games.  I think the Chiefs prevail in this one.  KC looks to be on their way to another Super Bowl appearance.

 

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