Posted: Monday October 3, 2005 12:08PM; Updated: Monday October 3, 2005 1:56PM
Packers quarterback Brett Favre has thrown seven interceptions and just five TD passes this season.
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While everyone is focused on the Packers' struggles, this is a huge game for the Panthers, who could drop to 1-3. The Packers may look bad, but they play in the NFL's worst division, and they've proven they can come back from slow starts. Carolina, which was a popular Super Bowl pick, competes with Atlanta and Tampa Bay in the NFC South and needs to stay at .500.
This is the first of three Monday night games for the Packers in what is starting to look like Brett Favre's farewell season. For the last few years, every time Green Bay gets in trouble the first storyline people gravitate to is Favre's retirement. The 15-year veteran has made comments that he's not that into football, but we've heard it all before. Just when he looks like he's finished, Favre usually comes up with a string of big games. And Favre likes the bright lights of primetime. Who can forget his 399-yard, four-TD performance against Oakland on Monday two seasons ago, less than 24 hours after his father died.
The Packers Win If ...
... they avoid turnovers and establish a running game. Favre has thrown seven picks and just five touchdowns this season, and a rushing offense that has been automatic for years is now ranked 26th in the NFL. The Packers lost starting guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera to free agency in the offseason and cynical cheeseheads think their absence is at the root of the offense's problems. New general manager Ted Thompson, who effectively let Rivera and Wahle go, is now a controversial figure in Green Bay, even though he's been on the job for less than a year.
The Packers' defense hasn't played badly, but new coordinator JimBates' unit can't seem to force any turnovers. Bates needs to get more aggressive, especially against Panthers QB Jake Delhomme, who like Favre, has been known to force throws. In Carolina's loss to Miami a week ago, the Dolphins blitzed the Panthers all afternoon and sacked Delhomme four times.
The Panthers Win If ...
Teams are gearing up to stop Panthers' athletic defensive end Julius Peppers, who has been held sackless this season.
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... they create a pass rush, find a way to run the ball, give QB Jake Delhomme time to pass and, most importantly, avoid another slow start. The Panthers fell behind early in losses to New Orleans and Miami, and they don't want to give the Packers' offense any confidence.
Carolina needs to play with a level of energy that just wasn't there in the losses to New Orleans and Miami. It was there against the Patriots in Week 2, but it's easy to get up against the defending champs.
Carolina needs two stars to have big nights: Stephen Davis and JuliusPeppers. Davis has four TDs, but is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. In 2003, his last healthy season, Davis averaged 4.5 yards per rush. Meanwhile, Peppers has been noticeably absent from the highlight reels this year. Opponents are game-planning against the athletic defensive end and Peppers isn't taking advantage of the opportunities he gets in single coverage.
Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format, only three 0-3 teams have made the postseason. Only one team -- the '92 Chargers -- has recovered from an 0-4 start to reach the playoffs.
The Panthers haven't been particularly impressive at Bank of America Stadium under coach John Fox. They are 13-11 at home and 12-12 on the road during his tenure. If they can drop their home opener to the Saints, they can lose to anyone in the NFC. The Packers ran all over the Panthers last year in Carolina en route to a 24-14 win in Week 1. Green Bay will run the ball effectively for the first time all season and Delhomme will make more mistakes than Favre.