The Green Bay Packers travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 of the regular season. The Packers are coming off a victory over the New Orleans Saints in the NFL regular season opener last Thursday night while the Panthers lost a close game to the Arizona Cardinals.
Before last week this looked like an easy victory for the Packers, but after Cam Newton's impressive debut, it could be closer than many people think.
We'll run through everything you need to know about this game including starting lineups, matchup breakdowns, depth charts and injury reports.
QB - Aaron Rodgers
RB - Ryan Grant
FB - John Kuhn
WR - Greg Jennings
WR - Donald Driver
TE - Jermichael Finley
LT - Chad Clifton
LG - T.J. Lang
C - Scott Wells
RG - Josh Sitton
RT - Bryan Bulaga
DE - Ryan Pickett
DT - B.J. Raji
DE - Jarius Wynn
ROLB - Erik Walden
RILB - Desmond Bishop
LILB - A.J. Hawk
LOLB - Clay Matthews
CB - Charles Woodson
CB - Tramon Williams
FS - Nick Collins
SS - Morgan Burnett
K - Mason Crosby
P - Tim Masthay
KR/PR - Randall Cobb
Not many surprises here, as this is the same lineup we saw the Green Bay Packers put on the field against the New Orleans Saints.
QB - Cam Newton
RB - DeAngelo Williams
FB - Jerome Felton
WR - Steve Smith
WR - Brandon LaFell
TE - Greg Olsen
LT - Jordan Gross
LG - Travelle Wharton
C - Ryan Kalil
RG - Geoff Hangartner
RT - Lee Ziemba
DE - Greg Hardy
DT - Terrell McClain
DT - Sione Fua
DE - Charles Johnson
ROLB - James Anderson
MLB - Dan Connor
LOLB - Thomas Davis
CB - Chris Gamble
CB - Captain Munnerlyn
FS - Sherrod Martin
SS - Charles Godfrey
K - Olindo Mare
P - Jason Baker
KR/PR - Mike Goodson/Armanti Edwards
Of course the biggest omission to the starting lineup for the Carolina Panthers is Jon Beason, who is out for the rest of the season. Another player that will be sorely missed is Jeff Otah who plays right offensive tackle.
Here are three big match-ups to watch for the Green Bay Packers:
1) A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop vs. Cam Newton
Even though Newton only had 18 rushing yards last week, everyone knows that he is a major threat in the open field. If the Packers' defense wants to stop drives, Hawk and Bishop are going to need to keep close tabs on Newton, especially if he starts moving outside the pocket. If Newton is able to get into space by running the ball, it could be a long game for Green Bay.
2) Tramon Williams or Charles Woodson vs. Steve Smith
Last week, Smith had a monster game and was able to get past the Arizona Cardinals' secondary all game long. With Newton's arm strength, the deep pass to Smith is one that he will be consistently looking for. Whoever is covering Smith, whether Woodson or Williams, will need to keep him in front of them to stop big plays from happening.
3) Bryan Bulaga vs. Charles Johnson
Charles Johnson had a breakout year last year and established himself as a dominant pass rusher. He definitely has the advantage over Bulaga, so this will be an interesting matchup to watch all game long. If Johnson can consistently get to Rodgers, the Packers will be in serious trouble.
Here are three key match-ups for the Carolina Panthers:
1) Carolina's linebackers and safeties vs. Jermichael Finley
There is no doubting Finley's elite athletic ability at his position and this matchup could prove to be very crippling for the Panthers. There isn't any player on Carolina's defense that has what it takes to cover Finley.
2) Jordan Gross vs. Clay Matthews
We all know how good of a pass rusher Matthews is, but we also saw the New Orleans Saints effectively slow him down. Carolina needs to have a similar game plan if they want to keep Matthews from causing major disruption.
3) Ryan Kalil vs. B.J. Raji
For the Panthers to have a chance in this game, they are going to need to be able to steadily run the ball against the Packers. The only way that happens is if Kalil can keep Raji out of the backfield. The winner of this matchup will go a long way to determine to winner of the game.
There is really only one question mark on the Green Bay Packers depth chart and that is at running back.
Last week we saw Ryan Grant start, which he will do again this week. However, James Starks had a better game and we could see him get more carries than Grant in this game. If Starks continues to play at a higher level, Grant could find himself losing more and more of his carries each week.
The Carolina Panthers have a few different positions on their depth chart of interest.
The first position is running back where DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are both very capable running backs. Whoever has a better start to this game will probably get more carries. However, don't be surprised if both running backs end up with a similar amount of rushing attempts.
Another position of interest is at tight end where both Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey will see plenty of playing time. Olsen had a better week last week, but Cam Newton targeted both tight ends and will probably do something similar this week.
Here is the injury report for the Green Bay Packers:
Mike Neal (DE), Frank Zombo (LB), Vic So'oto (LB)
Tramon Williams (CB), Alex Green (RB)
Chad Clifton (T), Davon House (CB), Ryan Taylor (TE), Jermichael Finley (TE)
Of course the biggest question coming out of Green Bay is whether or not Tramon Williams will be playing after a shoulder injury last week against the New Orleans Saints. If Williams can't go, the Packers secondary becomes much less intimidating.
Here is the Carolina Panthers injury report:
Jon Beason (LB) - out for season
Jeff Otah (T)
Thomas Davis (LB), Kealoha Pilares (WR), Josh Thomas (CB)
The Panthers have been able to stay rather healthy so far this year, but losing Beason for the entire season is a huge hit. Beason was the leader of this defense and the Panthers become a much worse defensive team without him.
Even with Cam Newton putting up one of the most impressive rookie performances ever last week, the Carolina Panthers still lost to the Arizona Cardinals. There is no doubt that the Green Bay Packers are a much better team than the Cardinals.
At the end of the day, there is just going to be too much offense from the Packers for Carolina to handle. Aaron Rodgers and his receivers and tight ends will have an absolute field day with the Panthers' defense.
It will be fun to watch what kind of encore performance we see from Newton today, but my guess is that if you are expecting another huge game, you will be sorely disappointed.
Final Score: Green Bay 38, Carolina 14