Sunday Night Football Preview: Cam Takes Center Stage
The Carolina Panthers rode a top-two NFL defense to a 12-4 record and the franchise’s first playoff berth in five years in 2013. They look to make the playoffs in back- to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history this year, and Cam Newton and company are off to a great start, seeking to start 3-0 with a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.
The Panthers are coming off an impressive 24-7 victory against the Lions where Newton made his 2014 season debut, throwing for 281 yards and a touchdown along with 19 yards on the ground. The Panthers defense held Detroit to 70 yards rushing as team and forced three turnovers, overcoming an early second half deficit in the process. The defense, among the top-three team units selected in fantasy drafts this summer, has been stout in the first two contests, forcing six turnovers, sacking opposing quarterbacks seven times, and allowing only 21 points.
Their momentum is high and the home crowd will be fired up as they welcome the Steelers to their home on Sunday.
Pittsburgh fell 26-6 in Baltimore last Thursday, as the Ravens rushed for 157 yards - 4.4 yards per carry - as a team, and forced three Steeler miscues while not turning the ball over themselves. Pittsburgh’s once vaunted defense has yet to force a 2014 turnover, and has become a sieve in run defense, allowing a total of 340 yards to opposing ball carriers through two games, good for fourth-worst in the NFL. Their Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) score ranks in the bottom four as well.
On paper, this game appears to be a fantasy headache in the making. Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell is off to an impressive start, with 304 all-purpose yards, a touchdown and the third-best NEP score among running backs early on, but Carolina has yet to allow a rushing touchdown to opposing backs. Antonio Brown looks to continue his hot start, having already gone for 90 or more receiving yards in each contest.
The Panther secondary has been up to the task though, allowing one touchdown to opposing wideouts through two games, even holding Calvin Johnson to a touchdown-less 83 yards in Week 2.
The Steelers will be making their third trip in franchise history to Charlotte and have won four consecutive contests in the all-time series. With no true existing history between these two franchises to pull from, let’s look at the advanced numbers to see how this will shake out.
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