How Carolina Can Win Their 8 Remaining Games

Blair ChopinContributor IIINovember 7, 2011

How Carolina Can Win Their 8 Remaining Games

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    The Panthers were very close to starting the 2011 NFL season 8-0.

    They were one fluke punt return from winning in Arizona, a couple of punts away from upsetting the world champion Packers, an offensive pass interference call away from winning in the Windy City, one stop away from upsetting the Saints, one turnover away from beating the Falcons and a 31-yard field goal away from having a chance to beat the Vikings.

    The Panthers need to understand that close does not really come close to cutting it in the NFL, though.

    The Panthers will once again have a chance to win their final eight games. Here is how they can do it.

How the Panthers Can Beat the Titans

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    The Panthers have to win the battle up front on both sides of the ball to beat the Tennessee Titans.

    The Titans are the worst running team in the National Football League,only averaging about 70 yards a game and around 3.2 yards a carry. 

    The Panthers are one of the NFL’s worst run defenses, though.

    The Panthers give up around the 133 rushing yards a game and start two rookie defensive tackles and two backup linebackers due to season ending injuries to Thomas Davis and Jon Beason.

    The Titans will be looking to get their struggling running game going against a young and banged up Panthers defense. 

    If the Panthers can “contain” the Titans running game like they did against a much more powerful Minnesota running game, they will have a pretty good chance to get a huge win at home.

    The Panthers also have to establish a running game early. 

    Recently, the Panthers have used creative playcalling and the talents of Rookie quarterback Cam Newton to become the eighth best rushing attack in the NFL. The Panthers have averaged around five yards a carry over the past few weeks. Before this, they were only averaging a little over two yards a carry.

    The Panthers need to hold the Titans to below three yards a carry and average five yards a carry to be able to pull out a victory.

How the Panthers Can Beat the Lions

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    To upset the Lions in Detroit, the Panthers have to control time of possession by running the football.

    Even though the Lions have one of the best passing rushing defensive lines in the NFL, they have only the 28th best rush defense in the entire NFL.  In Detroit’s two losses (San Francisco and Atlanta), Michael Turner was able to average around four-and-a-half yards a carry, and Frank Gore was able to average around nine-and-a-half yards a carry.

    The Panthers should aim to run the ball at least 30 times against the Lions.  If the Panthers can average five yards a carry, they will be able to control the clock, keep the Lions offense off the field and eventually upset the Lions.

How the Panthers Can Beat the Colts

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    The Panthers should be able to beat the Colts pretty easily.

    The Panthers are better at all of the skill positions, on the offensive line and in the secondary.

    The Panthers will blitz the Colts a lot (the Panthers are slowly becoming one of the better pass rushing teams in the league), they will run the ball effectively and Cam Newton will have one of the biggest days of his young careers. 

    The only way this game is close is if the Panthers turn the ball over multiple times.

How the Panthers Can Win at Tampa Bay

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    The Panthers have to get off to a fast start against the Buccaneers if they want a realistic chance at winning in Tampa.

    The Buccaneers are one of the slowest starting teams in the league, but in the second half, they usually find a way to overcome these deficits and still have a chance to win the game.

    Josh Freeman is still one of the best fourth quarter passers in the league. The Buccaneers defense tends to force more turnovers in the second half of games, and they just seem like they are playing with a lot more energy and enthusiasm.

    When you combine this with the fact that the Panthers are one of the league’s worst teams in the fourth quarter, a quick start is mandatory if they want any chance to win.  

    The Panthers have to attack the suddenly weak interior of the Buccaneers defense line, they have to be able to find Steve Smith in one-on-one matchups and they have to force at least three turnovers.

    If the Panthers do not have a double-digit halftime lead against the Buccaneers, they will probably end up losing the game.

How the Panthers Can Beat the Falcons

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    Even though the Panthers lost their first meeting in Atlanta by two touchdowns, they were still able to claim a three-point lead going into the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

    The Panthers have to understand what got them that lead in Atlanta and be able to execute that gameplan to perfection.

    The Panthers held a fourth quarter lead in Atlanta because of their ability to control time of possession by going on long drives, stop the Falcons offense on first down and their creative play calling on both sides of the ball.

    If the Panthers can hold on to the ball for 40 minutes, hold Atlanta to under three yards per play on first down and keep the Falcons on their toes on both sides of the ball, they will have a chance to upset the Falcons in Charlotte.

How the Panthers Can Beat the Texans

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    Now that the Texans have star receiver Andre Johnson back, you can make an argument that the Texans have the most complete offense in the league.

    They have one of the league’s best passing attacks and two of the league’s most versatile and talented running backs in Arian Foster and Ben Tate. The Texans are going to score over 30 points a game on most teams with this explosive and balanced of an offense.

    The key for the Panthers is getting this offense out of their normal flow and their normal schemes.

    The Panthers have to confuse Matt Schaub with different coverages and blitzes, put nine in the box in obvious running situations and take risks on defense that they would not normally take.

    If the Panthers can get the Texans offense way out of rhythm, then they can hopefully force at least two turnovers.

    The Panthers need to get at least 10 points off these turnovers to have any chance against the Texans.

How the Panthers Can Win Versus Tampa Bay

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    A quick start is once again the key to the Panthers beating the Buccaneers in Charlotte.

    The Panthers should be able to get off to an even quicker start against the Buccaneers now that they have the support of the home crowd.

    The Panthers need to score on their opening drive, average around five yards a carry and force two turnovers to beat the Buccaneers at home.

How the Panthers Can Beat the Saints

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    The Saints have one of the biggest home field advantages in the entire NFL.

    At home, the Saints play faster on offense, hit harder on defense, do not turn the ball over and blow their opponents out.

    To beat the Saints in New Orleans, the Panthers have to negate the Saints' big advantages.

    The Panthers have to isolate their athletes in space (screens to Steve Smith and tosses to Stewart and Williams), go on long drives to get the crowd out of the game, try to rattle Drew Brees into throwing interceptions and control time of possession.

    If the Panthers can use the Saints home field advantage to their advantage, they will have a chance at pulling the upset.