For the first time since 2008, the Panthers have a winning record, at 6-3. Heading into Monday night's game against the Patriots—a team with just one more win than themselves—the Panthers have every chance to keep their five-game winning streak alive.
It's true that since 2010, the Patriots have a record of 24-1 in the second half of the season, per Michael Whitmer of The Boston Globe. But the 2013 Carolina Panthers seem to have a one-up on the Patriots due to their defense, running game and third-down offense.
Let's take a look at why the Panthers should be favored in this particular matchup.
The Panthers' defense will put a tremendous amount of pressure on both the Patriots' rushing and passing games. Entering Monday night, Carolina is ranked third in rushing defense. Meanwhile, New England's offense is ranked ninth overall in terms of rushing yards.
The defense, led by Luke Kuechly and his 75 total tackles this season, will try to attack New England's rushing game, and they should be highly successful.
Let's face it, New England hasn't had an explosive offense this season, as guys have been coming and going all season long due to injury. However, as noted by Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, running back Shane Vereen should be returning to the lineup for the first time since he injured his hand in Week 1.
Besides Carolina's rushing defense, the team is also ranked fifth overall in interceptions. That will force Brady to be more on point with his throws, something that has seemed to be inconsistent throughout the season so far.
While the Panthers defense has been able to limit the opposition's rushing yards, the team's offense has been quite successful on the ground themselves this season. They currently have the league's No. 10 rushing offense and are averaging about 127.8 yards on the ground per game. Over the season, running back DeAngelo Williams has been leading the offense with 565 rushing yards.
Quarterback Cam Newton also adds to Carolina's rushing game, rushing for 266 yards thus far. This includes four rushing touchdowns and 4.2 YPC average.
The Patriots haven't faced a quarterback quite like Newton all season. Adding fuel to the fire, New England has a banged up defensive line, which includes defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, who are both out for the year.
In terms of the third-down battle, Carolina owns New England. Carolina is among the league's best on third down, coverting 46.2 percent of such attempts this season. Compare that to New England, who ranks 26th in this area at 34.6 percent.
Furthermore, Carolina's defense has allowed opponents to convert just 33.9 percent of third downs this season. And as noted by Andy Hart of Patriots.com, if the Patriots can't covert their third downs, it will give Carolina's offense a chance to get on the field and get its running game going.
Going one step further, Carolina has been able to convert on fourth down 71.4 percent of the time, compared to New England's 40 percent rate.
Looking forward, the Carolina Panthers have an easy schedule for the rest of the season, not counting their two games against the Saints in December. They will also be facing the Buccaneers and the Falcons once each, two teams that they recently beat handily during their five-game winning streak.
The New England Patriots also face a somewhat easy schedule. Their biggest game will be against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Week 12, and unless the Jets or Dolphins start winning more games, the Patriots will be staying put at first place in the AFC East.
As for now, it will be interesting to see if Carolina keeps their winning streak going tonight.
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