We are down to just six teams remaining in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy. This weekend features four Divisional playoff games, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, and Indianapolis Colts have been eliminated. There are only five games remaining in these playoffs. The winner of this game goes to the NFC Championship game.
Some would say the Carolina Panthers have had a “Cinderella-story” season. I would disagree. Sure, the Panthers finished 7-9 last season, and improved to 12-4 this year. I definitely did not predict them to win the NFC South title. But when you look at last season’s Panthers, they ended the season on a four-game winning streak; and the teams they beat were no scrubs. I believe they were overlooked by fans, due to the Saints and Falcons recent regular season domination. Either way, they are the number two seed in the NFC Playoffs, and have high hopes this post season.
The Panthers enter these playoffs having won 11 of their last 12 games. On the other side of the ball, the San Francisco 49ers come into the game on a seven game winning streak, one of which came last week in the wild card round against Green Bay. This is a great matchup, and will be a treat for any NFL fan. Two destructive defenses, two strong running games, and two capable young quarterbacks.
In order to defeat the Panthers, you absolutely must protect your quarterback. Carolina has had just four losses on the year. In all four losses, the Panthers have had no more than two sacks. The Panthers have plenty of players who can get after the quarterback. Two names that stand out are Greg Hardy with 15 sacks, and Charles Johnson with 11; but Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis can get after your QB as well. Carolina does an excellent job of disguising blitzes. In fact, I will say they are one of the best in the league in that regard. Find a way to handle their pressure, and beat them with screen passes and draw plays, which will open up the deep passes.
Keep their defense guessing. Use different personnel groupings, different players, and different calls at the line of scrimmage. If the Panthers catch on to what you are doing offensively, you will not succeed. The Cats have plenty of young players on defense, with little to no experience in the playoffs. Don’t give them the benefit of easy reads. When their defense finds rhythm, they make big plays. The defense fuels the offense on this team, so cut it at the source.
Cam Newton is having his best season as a professional football player. He is not forcing plays, but taking what the defense gives him. Newton has an ability to scramble away from strong pressure, and make huge plays with his legs. That is how he beats defenses. You have to keep Cam Newton in the pocket, and wait for him to force the tough passes. Newton is strong enough to break linebacker tackles. When your defense gets to him, they have to wrap him up, and make sure he goes down. Cam will burn you all night if he gets out of the pocket. None of your linebackers can catch him, so all he needs is a couple of blocks to go the distance.
(Keys to Beating the San Francisco 49ers)
(Keys to Beating the Indianapolis Colts) (Keys to Beating the New England Patriots) (Keys to Beating the Seattle Seahawks) (Keys to Beating the New Orleans Saints) (Keys to Beating the San Diego Chargers) (Keys to Beating the Cincinnati Bengals) (Keys to Beating the Kansas City Chiefs) Keys to Beating the Philadelphia Eagles) (Keys to Beating the Green Bay Packers)