Four Things to Ponder vs. Packers
Here are four things to watch out for heading in today's game between the Panthers (5-3) and Packers (7-2) at Lambeau Field (4:25 p.m. ET / FOX, Packers -5):
The temperature (of the team): This will be the first game since the announcement that Carolina was putting Cam Newton on Injured Reserve. So, barring injury or incident, this is Kyle Allen's team as the Panthers head into the second half of their season. The Panthers are 5-1 since Allen took over for Newton in Week 3. Could they take it up a notch now that there's a certainty over whose taking snaps for the remainder of the season?
The temperature (on the field): It could be worse -- much worse. The anticipated temperature at kickoff will be around 30 degrees, far less than the 60-degree forecast for Charlotte. Still, even under cloudy skies, there is no chance of precipitation (snow) and that slightly below-freezing 30 degrees will keep Lambeau Field from being the proverbial icy tundra. Winds a little stronger than 10 miles per hour could makings things cooler and slightly more challenging, though hardly noticeable compared to past experiences Carolina has had in Green Bay.
Pressure (on the Pack): Green Bay is coming off its worst offensive performance of the season, with Aaron Rodgers throwing for only 161 yards and an interception during a 26-11 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers. Rodgers was sacked three times for 22 yards, hardly astronomical numbers. But the Chargers constantly harassed the quarterback and he took repeated hits as he released the ball. The top priority for Green Bay will be to protect Rodgers or move him outside of the pocket to keep him away from a Carolina defense that has a league-leading 34 sacks. The Panthers will also have Mario Addison back after the defensive end spent last week with family following the death of his brother. Addison has a team-best 6.5 sacks.
Pressure (on the Panthers): Allen has started and won on the road, but there's a question as to how he will handle the mystique of Lambeau Field. The bigger mystery, however, is how will Carolina handle Green Bay's running game. Carolina is giving up 133.4 rushing yards a game, the seventh-worst total in the NFL. Of course, a big part of that average can be attributed to the franchise-record 232 rushing yards the Panthers surrendered during their loss at San Francisco. Still there have been more than a few moments away from the Bay during which Carolina looked suspect against the run. That could be a big concern against Green Bay. The Packers are only averaging 95.3 yards a game (22nd in the NFL), but that number has increased thanks to the emergence of Aaron Jones. He's rushed for 496 yards and eight touchdowns so far this season -- numbers that are nicely complemented by a team-best 35 receptions, 354 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver out of the backfield.