New York Jets vs. Carolina Panthers: Breaking Down Carolina's Game Plan

Dilan Ames@@DilanAmesNFLCorrespondent IDecember 11, 2013

Dec 1, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) runs off the field after the game. The Carolina Panthers defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-6 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers will look to bounce back against the New York Jets after a tough loss on the road. The Jets have been anything but consistent this season, and the Panthers will look to exploit their weaknesses in an effort to secure a playoff spot.

Several things will be key for Carolina as it tries to solidify itself in the NFC playoff race.


Heavy doses of Greg Olsen, Steve Smith

The Jets are ranked 24rd against the pass, meaning that the Panthers should focus on attacking their safeties early. Recent signee Ed Reed has struggled in his few games with the team, and a big-bodied, athletic receiver like Greg Olsen should be able to dominate the seam.

Olsen has had at least five catches in his past four games and will more than likely be a big part of Carolina's offense Sunday. 

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 24: Greg Olsen #88 of the Carolina Panthers catches a game winning touchdown during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on November 24, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Steve Smith will also be key offensively as the Jets secondary has struggled against speedier receivers and will have to pick its poison Sunday when it faces Carolina.

If the secondary doubles Smith, that leaves openings for Olsen and vice versa, a dilemma that is sure to give the Jets defensive staff headaches. With Antonio Cromartie's status uncertain as he recovers from a concussion, Smith could have a field day if it's Kyle Wilson or Darrin Walls that ends up covering him.


Let Cam be Cam

Cam Newton has enjoyed his best year statistically so far and is looking like a different player. He's developed good poise in the pocket and has grown as a passer.

His maturation has been a huge part of Carolina's turnaround as a franchise, and his development as a passer is what's really opened doors for them offensively. Newton has settled into being a poised pocket passer with an athletic pair of legs, truly making him one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the league.

New York's pass defense leaves the door wide open for Newton to have a field day throwing the ball. Things have been clicking in the passing game for Carolina lately, and that should continue against the shaky secondary of the Jets. 


War in the trenches

The trenches will be of tremendous importance as the Panthers' offensive line goes toe-to-toe with an all-star defensive line. If it can keep Newton upright, Carolina has a great chance of winning.

The biggest thing the Panthers have to do is stop the running game of the Jets. Carolina's proven to have the best front seven in the NFL, and if it can stop New York's rushing attack, it should be smooth sailing defensively.

New York was Pro Football Focus' sixth-worst offensive line, whereas the Panthers boast one of the fiercest defensive lines in the league. Given the size (over 1,000 pounds on its defensive line alone) and athletic ability of its guys up front, it should have no problem putting pressure on the quarterback.


Pick on the rookie

Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has been especially wobbly lately and will struggle against the league's second-ranked defense. 

Dec 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) is sacked by Oakland Raiders safety Brandian Ross (29) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Smith has turned the ball over more than any one player in the NFL and will have a tough outing against the Panthers who have 26 takeaways on the season. It's very likely that the Panthers defense will be able to hold New York below 10 points in this one-sided matchup. 

As long as the Panthers can control the line of scrimmage and not turn the ball over, this should be an easy victory.


*All stats courtesy of*