(CBSLA/CBS Local) — The Los Angeles Rams will be looking to repeat as NFC champions when they head Charlotte for their NFL Week 1 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Both teams come in with some injury concerns among marquee players. Never mind the hangover Super Bowl losers often suffer through in the opening game of the following season.
First, the injuries. For the Rams, the key is the health of starting running back Todd Gurley. His participation in the preseason has been limited. The all-purpose runner, who put up 1251 yards on the ground and another 580 through the air, didn’t play in a preseason game and practiced every other day. The team insists he’s ready to go for Week 1.
Larry Hartstein, senior analyst for SportsLine, doesn’t see any reason that that won’t be the case. “Todd Gurley didn’t show much in the preseason,” Hartstein observed. “They were saving him. I think he’s going to be fine for Week 1. I think he gets a full workload.” That said, it is still unclear which Todd Gurley will show up this season.
On the other side, Cam Newton suffered a foot injury in the Panthers’ third preseason game against the New England Patriots. But he’s not listed on the injury report going into the first game. Newton, of course, is the linchpin of the Panthers offense. And his absence would make this a very different Carolina team. But expect to see him on the field. “He did come back,” according to Hartstein. “He is practicing. I think you have to assume he’ll be close to 100% if not 100%.”
Newton will face a suspect Rams defense that gave up six yards per play last season, fifth worst in the NFL. And he’ll have enough weapons to exploit it. As Hartstein sees it, “You’ve got Cam Newton, with the best weapons he has had surrounding him in Curtis Samuel, DJ Moore, the young tight end Ian Thomas. I think this is going to be an entertaining shootout that comes down to the wire.”
Can the Rams defense rise to the challenge? Will Jared Goff and company put up enough points to overcome his team’s defensive shortcomings?
The Rams meet the Panthers in NFL Week 1 at 10 a.m PT.