The Carolina Panthers (4-8) enter Week 14 at home fresh off of a late-season bye week. The Denver Broncos (4-8) are coming off of a hard-fought loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Both teams are basically out of the playoff race at this point but the players still have a lot to play for. Nobody's job is guaranteed in the NFL so these last four games will be a good measuring stick to evaluate players that are on the roster bubble. The Panthers will again be without Christian McCaffrey due to a new injury (thigh) that popped up earlier this week. They will also likely be without their leading receiver DJ Moore who ended up on the NFL's COVID list over the bye week. It will be tough for the Carolina offense to get things going without two of its' best playmakers but that's 2020 for you. The last thing on any of the Panthers' or Broncos' players' minds is draft position so this should be a competitive contest.
Here are our three keys to the game for the Panthers' offense:
Utilize all of Curtis Samuel's skillset
As mentioned above, the Panthers will be without McCaffrey and Moore this week. This puts added pressure on all of the playmakers that Carolina does have suiting up in this game. Curtis Samuel is one of those players. Samuel has been absolutely outstanding on third downs and clutch situations this season. Still, they should get the talented pass-catcher more involved than normal in this game given the notable absences that they have on offense. Samuel has lined up somewhat in the backfield. This is something he often did in his college days at Ohio State. I'd like to see more of this out of play-caller Joe Brady going forward. By lining up Samuel in the backfield he can create mismatches on the field drawing a linebacker or safety into coverage rather than a cornerback. Samuel's speed is too much to handle for a linebacker and his ball skills are too good for most safeties to be able to cover one-on-one.
Feed Mike Davis
In the Week 12 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Mike Davis only received 15 carries. He needs to be at or above 20 in this week's matchup. This offense is really built around running the football with everything else stemming off of their ability to do so. The injuries to McCaffrey have caused the Panthers to abandon the running game as of late but Davis has proven to be a more than capable every-down back. The strong suit of Carolina has been the defense as of late. The best way to compliment that is with a strong running game.
Call short passes for Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater struggled mightily with accuracy down the field the last time we saw him before the bye week. Hopefully, the Panthers used the bye to help him get back on track. Bridgewater is at his best when Carolina limits throwing the ball down the field. As much as Joe Brady might want to call some deep shots this game figures to be too close to take those risks. Even without Moore and McCaffrey, the team still has some great playmakers that can pick up yards after the catch. The Panthers should get back to throwing the ball short and letting the receives make plays with the ball in their hands.
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