By Danny Cox
Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers just took down a playoff contender in the Pittsburgh Steelers, and in impressive fashion. It was a victory that had to be a huge confidence booster for a Chargers team that has struggled mightily this season. The win also prepared them to look for a second-straight this week, but the Carolina Panthers aren’t going to be that easy to beat.
Carolina is also coming off an impressive victory as they took down the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons, and in a big way. Cam Newton finally decided to show up for his boys in black and blue, and it was in every way imaginable. The Chargers are going to need to use every ounce of defense they have in order to stop Newton’s arm and also his legs.
Currently, Carolina sits at 4-9 and in the NFC South cellar, but they possess victories this season over some very good teams in Atlanta, Washington, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. While it’s true that some of those teams may have their own troubles, they still aren’t easy wins.
Cam Newton is going to be the key for Carolina getting a second win in a row, and he’s going to need to have a game like he did last week against Atlanta.
The second-year quarterback had his game of the season against the Falcons as he threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Making it even better was that he ran for 116 yards and scored another touchdown on the ground. That particular score happened to be on a 72-yard scamper that had put the Panthers up 23-0 at one point.
Actually, the Panthers‘ offense as a whole saw their best game of the season against Atlanta. Carolina racked up a season-high 475 yards because DeAngelo Williams finally got into the act as well.
Williams’ season has been nothing short of a disappointment as he has a mere 415 rushing yards on 120 carries and three touchdowns. A little more spark and effort out of him would really bulk up Carolina’s offense even more and make it incredibly dangerous.
In the receiving game, it’s still the crafty veteran Steve Smith that the Chargers need to watch out for. Smith only has 60 receptions this season, but he’s gained 999 yards through the air. Sadly, only two of those 60 catches have come for touchdowns. Newton just doesn’t throw a lot of scoring passes.
Newton’s other big target is tight end Greg Olsen who currently has 54 receptions for 691 yards and five touchdowns.
What San Diego really needs to do this weekend though, is try and use running back Ryan Mathews as much as humanly possible. While that seems rather far-fetched considering the lack of production he’s gotten due to lack of touches per game, it’s still a notion that needs to be looked at by the Chargers.
Carolina has the 21st-ranked rushing defense in the NFL, and are giving up over 120 yards per game on the ground. If San Diego can somehow get Mathews involved in the offense, then they’ve got a chance to open up a whole new aspect of the offense that they’ve been missing so far in 2012.
Getting Mathews involved would also allow for wide receiver Danario Alexander to see more space in the receiving game. The Panthers have the 12th-best passing defense in the NFL, but a working running game always allows a team to have a better passing game.
The Panthers are not the best team in the NFL by a long shot, but they won’t be a pushover for the Chargers either. The right game plan though, and San Diego can see a two-game win streak happen for them.
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Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.