This week we look at the Carolina Panthers. (Hated?) Division rivals and home of the amazing Cam Newton, the only QB to ascend to "elite" status after only his rookie season. Putting aside the little jokes though, I watched the panthers game last week and looked at their stats and there really isn't much to analyze. The panthers are going to get killed. Onto, the analysis. Panthers fans, you may not want to read this, its going to get uuugly.
Initial assumptions and Prior Bias
I expected the panthers to have a good defense especially considering the talent at LB, DE and a decent secondary. The offense I expected to be boom or bust. Lots of yards and lots of turnovers. Cam newton is likely going to be a pretty good QB, i think, but right now he's a bit of a garbage time superstar prone to gambling with his throws.
Points Scored (PS) = 17.33
Points allowed (PA) = 26.33
which translates to an average offense and a bad defense.
The panthers run defense is bad. It has allowed 4.54 yards per carry (YPC) good for 26th in the league. Their pass defense may be even worse; it allowed a 68.18% completion rate, 6.86 yards per pass attempt (YPA) and an opposition QB rating of 89.02. Whats worse they force very few mistakes from the QB with an NPP%* of 6.09% good for 24th in the league.
What that means is that the Falcons offense can beat the panthers any way they want. They can run the ball. They can play the short passing game. They can score quickly by going long to JJ and Roddy. The panthers D will do very little to stop them. And on the off chance that the Falcns do face a 3rd down. The panthers generously allow their opposition to convert 46.34% of their 3rd downs good for 26th in the league. So if you have any falcons in your fantasy football team, this week is a must start (even for Michael Turner).
The panthers passing game is a reflection of its QB. Its all about the highlights. As a result there will be a lot of big plays... for both teams. Cam newton has accumulated a very good completion percentage of 65.12% and an even better 9.81 yards gained per pass attempt indicating how often and how well the panthers are able to convert long passing completions. The problem lies in the turnover. He has 6 turnovers and a NPP% of 11.96% (28th in the league). This combined with the fact that the falcons D is excellent at forcing turnovers (8 turnovers, 12.17% NPP (4th in league) means that Supeman is pretty much guaranteed to throw a few balls to players in the wrong jersey.
Next, the run game. The panthers have averaged 3.91 YPC which is terrible considering the amount of money they have invested in their RB position as well as the presence of a running QB like Newton. On the other hand the Falcons run D has been awful, allowing 5.01 YPC. It should be noted that the focus of the falcons defense in the last two games has been to stop the passing game and as a result it may actually be better than it has looked so far; which bring us to...
Interesting Statistical Battle: Panthers Run Game Vs Falcons Run D
If the panthers coaches are smart they will know that their best chance lies in using their running game. The falcons coaches should know this also and will likely gameplan accordingly. As a result, how long this game continues to be interesting will depend on how this battle plays out. If the panthers can run the ball successfully, this game will be interesting in the second half. If not, it will be even less interesting after halftime than the Chargers game was.
Final Moral of the story
The panthers will try to run the ball. Eventually however, their offense will stall, they will fall behind, panic and lean too heavily on their passing game. And then they will self-destruct. Falcons win.
Lastly, this feels like one of those game where the Burner turns in one of his patented monster games to inflate his season averages.
Update: On re-reading this article I get the feeling I'm underestimating the panthers so are here are a few cautionary points for falcoholics as (over?)confident as me:
- The Falcons have traditionally had issues defending mobile QBs.
- The Panthers have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball including Charles Johnson, John Beason and Thomas Davis.
- Lastly, the Falcons are flying high while the Panthers were humiliated on national TV. This game looks too easy and is exactly the sort of game where a team gets complacent and loses a game they really have no business losing.
Disclaimer: I will be using stats from the current seasons most often unless I'm talking about individual players which means in the first few weeks the sample size is very, very small. So i will use my subjective view of the chargers as well as their opponents more than I would if I had more data. Stats used in this article are from here.
*NPP% - percentage of dropbacks /passing plays that result in negative plays (sacks, interceptions). Good defenses force a NPP% >10% while good offenses restrict NPP% < 6.5%