17

September

Green Bay Packers vs. Carolina Panthers Preview: 5 Things to Watch

The Green Bay Packers (1-0) and Carolina Panthers (0-1) face off in Week 2 of the NFL season Sunday.

The basics 

When: Noon CST, Sunday, September 18, 2011

Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC

TV: FOX, Ron Pitts and Jim Mora, Jr.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network

Series: Packers lead, 6-4 (Panthers won last regular season game, 35-31, in Nov. 2008 at Lambeau Field)

Five things to watch

Cam vs. the doubters

In the past year or so, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been doubted about everything from the authenticity to his smile to his ability to pick up a simple NFL offense. While his 422-yard NFL debut emphatically silenced most of those critics, they’ve been replaced by new doubters who think there’s no chance he’ll do well against a more talented Packers defense Sunday afternoon.

I, for one, hesitate to doubt Newton, who has risen to nearly every football challenge laid before him. There’s just something special about Newton that’s hard to attribute with stats or scouting terms. He has that “it” factor.

This will arguably be the biggest test of his football career, however, as Newton has never seen a defense as talented or multi-faceted as the Packers team he will face Sunday. Can he rise to this task as well? He might not lead the underdog Panthers to an upset win, but it’s hard to bet against Newton playing well, especially with Tramon Williams potentially on the sidelines.

Spreading the wealth

Much has been made in the 10 days leading up to this game about the disappearance of receiver James Jones in the offense during the Packers’ Week 1 win over the Saints. I think any competitor would be upset in his shoes, and he’s voiced that opinion a few times this week. It’s been discussed more than it needed in the lead up to this game, in my opinion.

Every dog will have his day in the Packers offense, but every dog won’t be satisfied every week. That’s just how it will go this season. Would anyone really be surprised if Jones caught a handful of passes this season?

16

September

Know Your Packers Enemy: Breaking Down Packers vs. Panthers With James Dator

We’re kicking off our season-long series of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” where every week I will talk with a blogger from the Packers’ opponent of that respective week. We’ll breakdown each game from the view of the opponent’s blogger, who should be able to give us some valuable insight on the team they cover. And while Week 1 would have naturally seemed like the right time to start this series, you wouldn’t believe how hard it was to find a Saints blogger. Nonetheless, the Panthers in Week 2 will be our jumping off point. In our first edition, I talked with James Dator from Cat Scratch Reader, the Panthers blog on SB Nation.

Here is the exchange:

1. Zach’s Question: Cam Newton was going to be a talking point in this game even before his record-setting debut, but tell me a little bit about the excitement surrounding that performance in the Panthers fan base. I, for one, was completely blown away by some of the things he did against Arizona. How are fans reacting to Newton in Week 1 and leading into the Packers game?

James’ Answer: Fans are ecstatic, and the excitement is probably at dangerous levels right now. As a whole I think there are some unreasonable expectations for Cam this weekend, but he tends to rise to the occasion. You have to understand the Panthers have really never had a true franchise QB, and we’ve been in the league for 16 years now, so there’s definitely a cautious optimism that Newton could be ‘the one’.
2. Q: Staying with Cam, what impressed you the most about his debut? I couldn’t believe I was seeing the same guy who couldn’t complete 50 percent of his passes in the preseason. He was cool in the pocket and was absolutely fearless throwing the ball down the field. What’s your take?

A: What impressed me the most wasn’t the 422 yards, or the three total TDs he scored, but rather when they cut to him after the game his head was hanging low, a towel over it and he was upset at the loss. That alone told me more about Cam Newton than the gaudy stats. What we’ve seen is a misunderstood player; sure he wants to be an ‘icon’, but he also wants to win, and is as competitive as anyone on our football team. Seeing him unsatisfied showed that he puts team success over personal glory, and that’s great to see.