On Sunday at 1:00 PM, the defending Super Bowl champions will play against the worst team in football in 2010, the Carolina Panthers, who only managed a 2-14 record last year. However, since then, the Panthers drafted their franchise quarterback in Cam Newton, who had an impressive start in Arizona on Week 1. The Panthers have also brought in several key players to improve their team, including two tight ends in Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey.
The Packers are 10-point favorites, but they aren't necessarily playing the 2-14 Carolina Panthers. Here are five big questions that remain about this matchup that could be more interesting than people expect.
Last week in Arizona, Cam Newton proved that he is a force to be reckoned with, racking up 422 yards in an impressive performance. Against the Saints, the Packers gave up nearly 500 yards, and while this could be attributed to the Saints' explosive offense, the Packers may be having to adjust to the loss of Cullen Jenkins, who went to the Eagles in the offseason.
The Packers have a solid defensive line led by Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji, but the loss of Jenkins could end up weakening that stout defensive line, especially given the fact that Mike Neal, who was slated to be Jenkins' replacement, will be out for most of the year due to an injury.
Pickett, Raji and the other backup linemen will have to step up against the mobile and difficult-to-tackle Cam Newton, or Newton could rack up similar yardage to what he did in Arizona.
Tramon Williams certainly scared Packer fans when he was taken out of the season opener with a shoulder injury that looked worse that it actually turned out to be. However, Williams' shoulder bruise makes him questionable for Sunday's game. This could spell trouble for the Packers secondary, which could find itself thin beyond its two slated starters, Charles Woodson and Sam Shields. After Woodson and Shields, the talent of cornerback drops dramatically, with Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush not proving themselves as solid corners and rookie Davon House having very little experience on the field.
If Williams is gone, the Panthers could attack the Packers, especially in the middle of the field, where Lee and Bush could potentially be playing soft coverage.
The Packers offensive line struggled greatly in the preseason, but played well in the opener against the Saints. While neither the Panthers nor the Saints have a stout defensive line, the offensive line is still going to have to work hard at keeping Aaron Rodgers upright, because if they don't, they are putting the franchise at risk.
The Packers will likely air it out more than they run the ball, much like they have in the past, but that doesn't mean that their running game isn't a threat. Many Packer fans are speculating how the running game will fare now that the Packers have two threats to run the ball, with both James Starks and Ryan Grant on the roster.
Having two running backs will definitely add a new dimension to the Packers offense, as long as they both perform, but against the Panthers, I expect a good day from both Starks and Grant.
The Packers defense is notorious for taking away the ball, and against a rookie quarterback, the Packers defense could have a big day in the turnover column.
Dom Capers is a master at coming up with schemes to disrupt the opposing offense, and against a rookie quarterback who has just played one regular-season game, a few turnovers by Cam Newton against one of the top defensive squads in football wouldn't be too surprising.