All of a sudden, the Carolina Panthers are among the NFL's elite teams. A few weeks ago, the Panthers got over the .500 mark for the first time in years. Now, Carolina is a legitimate contender in the NFC after beating the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10.
Another test looks large for Carolina in Week 11 it plays host to the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. The Patriots are 7-2, a game better than the 6-3 Panthers. The matchup may give some fans on both sides flashbacks to the Super Bowl 38 contest between the two franchises.
The Panthers will be hoping for better luck in this marquee game.
Meet the Panthers
Carolina started of the season 0-2, leaving some wondering about the futures of quarterback Cam Newton and coach Ron Rivera. A 38-0 throttling of the New York Giants got things back on track for Carolina, though, and the team is 6-1 since the first two games of the season. The Panthers have also won five consecutive games and are poised to contend for an NFC title.
Newton has been brilliant for the Panthers at times, but it's the front seven on defense making things happen in Carolina. Led by linebacker Luke Kuechly, the Panthers have been tough to run on and have gotten consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Rookie defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has been a key addition up front as well.
Meet the Patriots
This isn't the same old Patriots team that has dominated the AFC East for years, but it's still a pretty damn good group of players. Rob Gronkowski is back in the fold after missing six games of the season due to offseason surgeries on his back and forearm, and the Patriots' offense looks much more efficient with him in the lineup. Tom Brady has spent much of the season working with rookie wide receivers on an injury depleted depth chart, but the offense is finally starting to pick up steam.
Defensively, the Patriots have been an opportunistic bunch in 2013, forcing a total of 19 turnovers.
Local Takes: Panthers
The Panthers have been cruising lately, but the games get bigger and bigger. Cat Scratch Reader says the team can't afford to let up for a second.
So often we see prime time games fizzle out into boring messes due to sloppy play. Neither team can afford to slack off on Monday night, as Carolina is desperately trying to catch New Orleans while the Patriots aim to fend off the New York Jets. The old axiom is "defense wins championships," but one game is enough for now. Has Carolina seen a veteran team with this much talent in 2013? No, but the Patriots haven't faced a defense like the Panthers.
Local Takes: Patriots
The Patriots will have to crack through the Panthers' front seven if they hope to have any success on offense, so Pats Pulpit examined how they can do that.
If the Patriots are to run to the right side more frequently (and with Cannon the size of a firehouse, I don't see why they wouldn't), they need to ensure that Wendell and Connolly remain on the same page as Cannon. The Panthers defenses features a stud linebacker in Luke Kuechly who is drawn to tackles and slicing through gaps more perfectly than anyone in the league not name Lavonte David.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
WE'RE WEARING THE GREATEST UNIFORMS IN THE HISTORY OF THE NFL ON MONDAY NIGHT Y'ALL! #BLACKOUT#PANTHERS
— Cat Scratch Reader (@CatScratchReadr) November 14, 2013
Jason Campbell, not Tom Brady, was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week. Um, okay.— Greg Knopping (@patspulpit) November 6, 2013
The Patriots are experienced and tested in big games, but the Panthers have a ton of momentum going into the Monday night matchup. The Panthers are playing at home as well, which should have them playing with an edge. This is a toss up game and could go either way, but Carolina appears to have an advantage.
Pick: Carolina 21-17
The Panthers are one-point favorites over the Patriots, according to Odds Shark.
Week 11: New England vs. Denver, 8:30 p.m. ET
Week 11: Miami vs. Carolina, 1 p.m.
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