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Monday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers will be the toughest game this season for the New England Patriots. Well, statistically speaking at least. According to FootballOutsiders.com, the Panthers have a better offense, defense and quarterback than the Patriots.
By looking at just yards per game, then the Patriots edge the Panthers by about 40 yards. However, if you take into account the opponents that each team has played, Carolina’s offense is ranked 10th to New England’s 14th, according to football outsiders.
While statistics may say that Carolina’s offense is about five percent more efficient than New England’s, it doesn’t take into account injuries and the loss or addition of key players. The Patriots offense seemingly found its stride in its win over Pittsburgh. Rob Gronkowski appears to be returning to form and should help the Patriots offense produce.
Also, it’s likely that Shane Vereen will return to the field this week against Carolina. Vereen was instrumental in New England’s first win of the season and was poised to be a key cog in the offense before his injury. He will provide a receiving threat out of the backfield and should help on third downs, where the Patriots have an abysmal 34.65% conversion rate.
If Vereen can in fact help on third down then the Patriots should be able to keep the defense rested and on the sidelines and to produce enough points to put the pressure on the Carolina offense.
This is where Carolina really has the advantage. So far this season they are allowing about 80 fewer yards and seven fewer points than the Patriots defense. Football outsiders has them as the number one defense to New England’s tenth.
New England will have to hope that their number one defensive back Aqib Talib is ready to play on Monday night. If Talib can play and eliminate Carolina’s number one receiving threat in Steve Smith, the Patriots will have a better chance to win the game.
The Patriots will also have to win the turnover battle. They have a +9 rating to Carolina’s +8 which isn’t much, but even one turnover can affect the outcome of a game.
Statistically speaking the Carolina Panthers should win this game. However, statistics can’t tell the whole story. There are intangible factors at play that can also affect the outcome of a game.
As previously noted, the Patriots should be getting some key players back from injury including Shane Vereen and Aqib Talib.
The Patriots are coming off of a bye week and Bill Belichick is 10-3 following the bye week in his Patriots career. They have had about two weeks to prepare for the Panthers and you can be assured that they will be ready when Monday rolls around.
While he’s not having one of his better seasons, Tom Brady is still Tom Brady and can perform on the big stage and nothing is bigger in the regular season than Monday Night Football. This is New England’s only Monday night game of the season.
The only thing Carolina really has going for them is that they are in a tight division race with the New Orleans Saints and can’t afford to lose any more ground as they are already down one game.
So while the Panthers may edge the Patriots slightly in the statistics category, the intangibles go to the Patriots and therefore the Patriots will come away with the win on Monday night.