NFL Week 10 Preview: Panthers vs. Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs started the 2015 season with a 1-5 before winning their last 10 games to finish with an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. After winning consecutive games, the Panthers are hoping to finish this season on a similar path after starting the year 1-5. The 2016 version of the Chiefs will come into Charlotte with a 6-2 record and two of their best players returning to the lineup. Quarterback Alex Smith is expected to start after missing last Sunday’s game against Jacksonville and linebacker Justin Houston is expected to make his 2016 debut after recovering from an ACL injury. Despite the terrible start, Carolina will come into Sunday’s matchup only 1.5 games behind Detroit in the race for a spot in the wild card. With a tough schedule the rest of the way, the Panthers will have to find consistency on both sides of the ball in order to save their season.
Headlines for Week 10
The return of Justin Houston
2014’s sack leader, Justin Houston will play in his first game since injuring his knee last November. With the Panthers suffering injuries to an already shaky offensive line, Houston could be primed for a big season debut. The Rams sacked Cam Newton five times during Week 9 and with Houston joining forces with fellow linebacker Dee Ford, more hits are likely on the horizon for Newton. Ford has been one of this season’s best pass rushers and he ranks near the top of the league with 9 sacks. Houston has stated he expects to dominate on Sunday and with Dee Ford as insurance, he should be able to comfortably settle back into his position on an already stout Chiefs defense.
Can Cam Newton duplicate his last 8 games of 2015?
Although it hasn’t yielded the same results in the win column, Cam Newton has outperformed his numbers from the first half of last season. He’s completing a higher percentage of passes and his QBR is also 10 points higher than it was this time a season ago. Many forget Newton started the 2015 season off slow before catching fire in the second half of the season and securing the league’s MVP trophy in the process. The Panthers desperately need Newton to go on a similar run, starting on Sunday, if they want any shot at making the playoffs.
The Chiefs are strong in the secondary, led by All-Pro safety Eric Berry and emerging star corner Marcus Peters but they ranked near the bottom of the league against the run. Therefore, Newton should look to call his own number when running the zone-read on Sunday in an effort to force Kansas City to place another defender in the box. If Carolina can find success with the zone-read, this should open up the passing game and allow them to go play action with the zone-read. Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin are ranked amongst the best in the league in receptions of 20 yards or more and those big plays will be needed for an offense looking to bounce back after only managing 13 points in their last game.
Alex Smith is under center so the Panthers secondary should be able to limit those costly big plays. Chiefs running back Spencer Ware is also questionable for Sunday so the Panthers defense shouldn’t have too much trouble against an offense relying on Smith. Carolina wins their third straight in another physical, defensive game.
Final Score: Panthers 20-17