Ah, Monday night… There’s just something about the sound of Monday Night Football especially when the weather turns and the wind starts to howl. Teams in the National Football League are jockeying for playoff positions or are already starting to think about next year. Tonight features to teams with winning records that both have their eyes on the postseason.
New England (+1) at Carolina – These are the types of games where New England Head Coach Bill Belichick always seems to turn the table on his opponents. Whenever there are questions about his own team, whether it is poor line play, poor running game or injuries, Belichick just seems to know how to push the right buttons.
Belichick faces a situation similar to those as his Patriots head to Charlotte to play the hot Panthers of Carolina. At 6-3, the Panthers are the only competition for the New Orleans Saints right now in the NFC South. Belichick and his quarterback Tom Brady often relish these challenges and this will be one there’s no doubt about it.
Carolina currently has the second best rushing defense in the league and the fifth best passing defense in the league. Their defensive front has caused problems for teams all season I would expect it to continue even against the Pats. What Belichick and his staff will do is try to find the weakest link. They will then design the offense in a manner that will expose that player.
This technique is nothing new but it’s something that Belichick and company have excelled at over the years.
Defensively, the Patriots will do the same thing although it’s a little harder to take away QB Cam Newton. Therefore, expect the Patriots to load up in an effort to stop the Panthers’ 10th-ranked rushing offense and in turn, will force the game into the hands of Newton. The hope there is that he will force throws and will make mistakes but that only happens if the Patriots can control the line of scrimmage and force the Panthers into third and long situations.
Coach Ron Rivera and his staff know that New Orleans won last night to move to 8-2 on the season. That means they’ll need a victory over New England to remain a game back. The Panthers and Saints hook up twice in three weeks starting December eighth. That game will have to wait because the Panthers have serious business to handle first in the name of New England.
Look for the Panthers to rely on pressure to get Brady out of his rhythm. This is typically the only way you’re going to have a shot a slowing down the Patriots’ offense. By this point in the season, Brady’s receivers are no longer ‘new.’ They’ve had time to settle in now and understand the system so mistakes are no longer tolerated.
Carolina cannot go to sleep on the running game though. Stevan Ridley and Lagarrette Blount can provide a healthy dose of rushing which can keep pass rushers at bay.
The Patriots are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against the Panthers while Carolina is 5-1 in their last six home games straight up. The over/under is 44.5 which I’m feeling is going to be high. Take the under because I see a defensive-minded battle coming on here.
As far as the spread, with the Patriots being a one-point dog it’s hard to look past them. These are the types of games that just go the Patriots’ way so take them win a game somewhere in the ballpark of 23-13.