Maggie's Pre-Game Six Pack - 2020 Week 15

A new Panthers squad, maintaining control of the No. 1 seed, and more in this week's six pack. 

The Packers and Panthers face off on Saturday Night Football. Yes, you read that right. Here are six things to keep an eye on heading into Saturday’s game at Lambeau Field:

1. Run CMC, but not in GB

All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey remains doubtful for Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury. He’s played in only three games this season, having missed a significant chunk of time with an ankle sprain before injuring his shoulder during his Week 9 return. 

In last year’s matchup between the Packers and Panthers, McCaffrey rushed 20 times for 108 yards and one touchdown. He also hauled in six catches for an additional 33 yards through the air. The game came down to a final goal-line stand from the Packers defense, or McCaffrey’s numbers would’ve looked even more impressive. 

Even without McCaffrey, though, the Panthers still have a talented back on the roster in Mike Davis. Davis leads the team in total touchdowns with seven and has 926 all-purpose yards through 13 games. He’s also tied for third in the NFL with 25 broken tackles, so the Packers defense better wrap up on Saturday. 

2. A Completely Different Panthers Team

While the Packers and Panthers did just meet at Lambeau Field last season in a snow globe game, the Panthers roster looks incredibly different one calendar year later. For starters, Kyle Allen was the quarterback last season, and familiar foe Teddy Bridgewater is the new man under center for Carolina. 

What’s more, tight end Greg Olsen is now with Seattle and linebacker Luke Kuechly has since retired from the league. There’s also a new head coach in town, with first-year coach Matt Rhule taking over for the previously-led Ron Rivera squad. 

The Panthers made some significant improvements to its defense in the 2020 NFL Draft, and we’ll talk about those additions in No. 4. On offense, beyond the acquisition of Teddy Bridgewater (3,102 yards, 14 TD, 8 INT), Carolina also brought in free agent wide receiver Robby Anderson, who’s four yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season. Anderson and D.J. Moore (924 yards, team-leading 4 TDs) present a dangerous receiver tandem the Packers will need to account for on Saturday.

3. Waiting All Day for Saturday Night

It certainly is strange having a Saturday game, but I don’t mind it. When I think about Saturday games, I think of the Packers hosting the Vikings on Christmas Eve in 2016 en route to a 38-25 blowout during their “Run the Table” season. Rodgers had 347 yards and four touchdowns in that game, and it’s fully possible he puts up similar numbers this Saturday. The Panthers secondary allowed a career-best performance from Broncos quarterback Drew Lock last week. He threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns with zero picks, giving him a rating of 149.5. He also was only sacked once. 

Per the dope sheet, the Packers are 5-2 at home against Carolina, and they’ve scored 30-plus points in five of those matchups. Through 14 weeks, the Packers remain the league’s top scoring offense, averaging 31.5 points per game. Green Bay has put up 30 or more points in all but three games this season. 

4. Panthers All-Defense Draft

Carolina invested all seven of its 2020 draft selections on the defensive side of the ball, and those selections are already making a difference on the field. Last season, the Panthers finished 31st in the NFL in points against, giving up an average of 29.4 points per game. This season, that number has improved significantly, with the Panthers climbing to 20th allowing 25.5 points per game. 

The Panthers rookie class is impressive, with seventh overall pick Derrick Brown notching six tackles for loss and eight quarterback hits. Perhaps no rookie has impressed more than Jeremy Chinn, however, who has to be in contention for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Chinn plays a versatile safety/linebacker role for the Panthers defense and currently leads all rookies with 94 total tackles. He’s also the only player in the NFL currently with two defensive touchdowns and at least one sack, interception, forced fumble, fumble recovery, and tackle for loss. Phew. 

Edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos, cornerbacks Troy Pride Jr. and Stantley Thomas-Oliver III, safety Kenny Robinson, and defensive tackle Bravvion Roy round out the team’s selections. It’s an up-and-coming defense that also includes 2019 first-round pick Brian Burns, who leads the Panthers with six sacks. 

5. Four for 500

Green Bay hasn’t had four pass-catchers eclipse 500 yards since 2012, but they’re pretty close to that milestone this season with three games left to play. Davante Adams leads the charge with 1,144 yards, but that’s not surprising to anyone. Next in line is Marquez Valdes-Scantling with 604 yards, and Robert Tonyan just hit 500-plus yards against the Lions last week with his 36-yard outing, bringing his season total to 533. 

Allen Lazard is the closest player left with 364 yards so far this season, meaning he’d need to average 46 yards per game through this final stretch to hit 500, something he likely would’ve had no trouble doing had he not missed six games with a core injury.            

6. Maintain Control of the No. 1 Seed

The Packers are in control of the No. 1 Seed in the NFC, and now there are only three games left to play “king of the hill.” If Green Bay wins out, or at least ties with the Saints, the path to the Super Bowl will funnel through Lambeau Field. 

The Saints have a pretty tough stretch these final three weeks, facing the Chiefs, Vikings, and Panthers to close out the regular season. The Vikings always seem to have New Orleans’ number, and division games are tough regardless of record (and that’s not even including this week against Kansas City). 

A win on Saturday night keeps Green Bay in the driver's seat in the NFC, and then whatever else happens in the conference won’t matter. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

6 points

Comments (32)

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stockholder's picture

December 18, 2020 at 07:01 am

You liked Chinn. A+

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NickPerry's picture

December 18, 2020 at 07:16 am

There's been a lot written about the Packers defense this season and rightfully so. One position that's still an issue is ILB, especially when Kirksey is playing. Personally I'd rather see more, MUCH more of Barnes and Martin. I'd rather live with the mistakes now and then because they're rookies than watch Kirksey TRY to run in his cement shoes.

BUT... Is it Kirksey who's that slow or just not that good, or is it Mike Pettines scheme? Blake Martinez had some interesting things to say about the ILB position in the Packers defense and Mike Pettines scheme when he left. Most of us all felt Martinez was just sour about getting no offer from GB.

This saw this write up on NFL.com today about Martinez..

"Martinez has been a blessing for the Giants in Year 1 with his new team, landing ninth among all linebackers in Pro Football Focus' defensive grades (76.2). He's already piled up 112 tackles, and is near his career high in QB hits and passes defensed as part of a Giants defense that has become rather stingy in the second half of the season. A big reason for the unit's improvement is the play of Martinez (and another guy on this list), with the LB frequently flying all over the field. His 12 hustle stops (takedowns in which a player covers 20-plus yards of distance from snap to tackle) are tied for the sixth-most in the NFL to this point."

SAY WHAT??

"His 12 hustle stops (takedowns in which a player covers 20-plus yards of distance from snap to tackle) are tied for the sixth-most in the NFL to this point."

WHAT!!!!! I had to read that part 3 times and paste it twice for friends here. This NEVER happened in GB!

#FIRE PETTINE...It's HIM!

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

December 18, 2020 at 08:57 am

Blake Martinez was one of my favorites too, and I am very happy to see him do well elsewhere. Not only in this article you referenced, I have heard his name crop up a few times, all of them favorably.

You are right, Pettine has been underwhelming during his time in GB. I hope he goes, sooner rather than later.

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Coldworld's picture

December 18, 2020 at 09:42 am

Kirksey looks rusty and short of confidence to me. I think it’s in part mental, just not letting himself play. When he does get in position he isn’t trusting himself and too much hesitation causes him to be slow.

I think that the way that Pettine has manned the front and the results has made it very difficult for the single ILB. I do t think it’s purely the players that result in the second ILB being the one to make splash plays (including the hybrid). If we had a more effective front versus the run, or a more consistent rush, that would make it easier perhaps.

I think this is all tied to Pettine’s attempt to remove big plays that has changed the nature of this D. It has worked in that regard, but to the detriment of disruption and turnovers and worsened our run D in my view. Trying to make a D designed to be aggressive and disruptive ( per Pettine) be a big play preventer first and foremost is self undermining. I think ILB gets the worst of that neither fish nor fowl identity. Kirksey not being what he was is a double whammy.

Based on the above, I see Pettine as a man out of answers. His attempt to improve has made less out of more. I also think he prefers safe over upside as a result. This is why the likes of Martin, Winn and Scott struggle to get meaningful snaps despite impact. Stop the big play first, not make impact.

This game should see Martin or Scott get a lot more snaps based on matchup. I fear that instead we will see a lot of Kirksey, Lowry and extra d/bs Pettine is familiar with but often miscasts.

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Since'61's picture

December 18, 2020 at 10:04 am

Nick the question remains, would you sign Martinezto his current contract to remain in GB? If yes, who would you be willing to give up from the current roster to keep him?
Kenny Clark? Bahktiari? Amos?

We can’t keep everyone. Besides we’re the #1 seed and the Giants are ??? Martinez for all his tackles is not making a difference in NY and he didn’t really make a difference for GB.

Thanks, Since ‘61

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NickPerry's picture

December 18, 2020 at 06:27 pm

Hi Since 61...I didn't post it as a slight toward GB for not signing him, I wouldn't have given him that contract no way.

BUT I never really viewed Martinez as a "Hustling ILB" but in NY he seems to be just that. He's also doing a decent job in coverage...Something that NEVER happened in GB. I've defended Pettine, even this year but I'm DONE.

THIS Packers defense under a guy like say Robert Saleh, the 49ers DC, IMO could be a Top 10 defense. Look what the Rams have done this year under 1st year DC Brandon Staley, another one of these YOUNG new DC's around the League who are doing really well.

Pettine was McCarthy's hire and McCarthy loves Dinosaurs. He hung onto Capers forever, another dinosaur and brought in Pettine. Just look at who he hired in Dallas...Mike Nolan, ANOTHER dinosaur.

I've gotten the feeling and mentioned in more than once MLF has been STUCK with Pettine. I don't believe he really wanted him in 2019 and it's why it took over a month at the end of last season to announce Pettine would be back in 2020. MLF is a Saleh or Staley kind of guy. A young up and comer who can coach, understands todays offenses, and best of all, knows how in the hell to STOP todays offenses.

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Leatherhead's picture

December 18, 2020 at 10:07 am

It happened a lot in Green Bay but people didn’t want to see it. They’d rather talk about 5.8 yards beyond the line of scrimmage , which is one tackle for no gain and one for an 11 yard gain because nobody else stopped the play earlier.

Martinez was a good player for us. Kirksey is not an improvement.

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Since'61's picture

December 18, 2020 at 10:49 am

Kirksey is too slow. We need to be playing Barnes and Martin. At least they bring some speed to the position to make up for mistakes they might make due to their lack of experience.

We can survive with Kirksey when Raven Green is healthy.
But with Green out we need guys who can play side to side. Maybe Gute will finally address ILB in the 2021 draft.
Thanks, Since ‘61

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Coldworld's picture

December 18, 2020 at 12:39 pm

Kirksey doesn’t seem slower than Martinez to me. The salient difference it seems is the distances the two teams ask them to cover and the breath of responsibilities.

I can’t argue Kirksey has proved better, but I can’t argue that NY isn’t a better fit for Martinez either. Pettine seems to need a true elite LB ( and back up, who can diagnose, tackle and get sideline to sideline). Thus far Kirksey isn’t that and Martinez has never been that.

That’s why it needed to be Barnes/Martin or bust earlier. Greene papered some cracks but we have no Greene now. If Pettine doesn’t get Martin/Barnes out there now it should be his swan song moment unless Scott is an ace in hiding at Hybrid.

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PhantomII's picture

December 18, 2020 at 07:54 pm

The main thing you want to see from an ILB is TFL. The more TFL the better your ILB is at diagnosing the called play and seeing the run lane develop because of his vision and accelerating thru contact to stop the runner. Of course they are normally great tacklers also. They are usually good out of the box. It's the coverage stuff they usually grow into depending on their previous Defensive scheme. BTW I have not seen one of these in a packer uniform in decades.

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PeteK's picture

December 19, 2020 at 11:09 am

Blake is getting an abundance of help from his DL as Williams is having a monster year and Lawrence is also very solid.

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PhantomII's picture

December 18, 2020 at 12:50 pm

I'm with you on Martin/ Barnes. I'm pretty sure Blake is a straight shooter on his take on Pettine. Until we get a complementary DL next to Clark we will never know if Pettine's odd schemes will ever work. I see the guy as so stubborn that he is trying to fit players into his scheme instead of playing players at their obvious strengths. Only lately is he putting bigger bodies up front to help stop the run, which they are not accomplishing. 1or 2 three and outs per game is not enough of a chance for our Offense to get a score separation that our Defense or Special teams unit can't blow. If our Offense scores too fast our Defense is then on the field too long and running the clock out. ML has to get pretty crafty with his play calling to get this team a win.

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CoachDino's picture

December 18, 2020 at 06:30 pm

How was the defense last year with Blake? How is the defense this year w/o Blake?
My point being with the disappointing play of Kirsey and the injuries that forced Summers and Burks into action, then finding hope in Martin (Barnes made a few plays but overall has played poorly) the run defense is just as good as when Blake was here. So not signing Blake didn't hurt the defense and saved money.

I still see us fans want it both ways. We are constantly upset with the resources allocated to ILB and Run stuffing IDL. Ok, there's an argument for that. So if we believe in that then how in the world can we blame the DC for the poor run defense, which actually isn't poor but average.

Then on top of that why would we want to change the defensive strategy when it has been proven to give this team the best chance of winning. Focus on stopping big plays, outscore your opponent and force them into a pass first situation that plays into the strengths of the Defense.

I don't care how good the offense is, if us fans and media truly believe, our defensive players are terrible at key positions, the defensive strategy (not overly aggressive) is all wrong and on top of the DC and scheme (player packages, formations, etc) are terrible you aren't going to win. Yet the Dc and his squad are 23-6 in the last 2 years, made it to the NFC championship Game and currently have the #1 seed. On top of that they aren't even graded out as a bad defense but an average defense.

What gives?

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PhantomII's picture

December 18, 2020 at 07:40 pm

WOW....I believe we are near 100% not stopping an offense from scoring inside the 5. I believe 100% at failing to stop 2 pt. conversions. Our Defense has improved as of late but are not good at getting multiple 3 and outs and putting the rock back in Rodgers hands without the opposition scoring first. During these extended drives the clock is eaten in whole quarters and limit our ability to score multiple times per quarter and separate from other teams. Pettine does not Blitz more than a couple times per game. Not rotating personnel often enough. By nature using Pettine's "multiple" montra putting DB's into scenarios which may not be to their strong suit. Taking 1/2 a game to make defensive coverage changes to slow down an offense. Let's also be honest we have not played top end offenses who were not sputtering at the time or missing elite personnel. As bad as our Defense has looked in the past, it can get worse with a better offense we have not yet faced. Statistics are who you have played and we have won what we should have won. I finally see signs of Savage coming on and Gary also. P. Smith is playing better and also Amos. King is getting healthy. Our Offense taking time off the clock to score more methodically helps and gets everyone involved and lets our Defense rest. Our base D needs to be 2-DL and 2-OLB and 2-ILB.

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CoachDino's picture

December 18, 2020 at 09:43 pm

My Guy phantom, I don't disagree with areas of concern. your stats are all overly skewed, some with no real impact (Most teams score when inside the 5). What does DC mantra even mean. He has to play with what he is given. flexibility is a very strong asset both in disguising defenses and depth. ALL Nfl teams value positional flexibility.
The Packers have done a great job on 1st half defense as a whole. When have the Packers ever trailed? They have to be stopping teams sometimes. the knock is that DC changes the strategy to be less aggressive to higher the probability of success when having a big lead (soft or prevent defense.). Statistics no matter who you play, if used correctly, can help establish trends. If your point is rankings can be skewed by variables such as strength of schedule, for sure. The Packers have played plenty of top 10 offenses and defenses. Nothing changes as far as overall strategy on how the Packers win no matter who they play. The packers Offense MUST execute to a high level. Limit turnovers to a min. get out in front early and force the opponent to abandon the run. Defense must limits big plays and forces long drives which directly correlates to opponents failed offensive drives plus a turnover or two.

If anyone's is banking on the packers winning games by the defense limiting the opponent to under 10 pts is crazy, 20 pts is even optimistic against a Good Offensive team. That said around 24 or so is doable for this defense (its their avg). Packers average over 30 in scoring. - The packers are actually very capable of posting even better averages in PF/PA but so often having big leads this year the offense slowed down and the defense lightened up.

I also get a kick out of there being some glaring issue with DC decisions. Though fans and media all see it, NFL personel across the league and within GB must see it and if DC would just change it they would improve - YET - ML refuses to have that discussion, all his coaches refuse to point it out, his friends and mentors throughout the league say nothing to help him or they all tell him but he refuses and ML lets him continue risking the SB chances this year. OK interesting theory.

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PeteK's picture

December 19, 2020 at 10:46 am

It's the NFL of today, few teams have great defenses because there are many talented QBs and WRs .Key phrase in this debate , we're 23-6.

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PhantomII's picture

December 19, 2020 at 01:13 pm

I want a Championship this year, not an embarrassment like last year. Our Offense is exceptional, let's hope it's enough.

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CoachDino's picture

December 19, 2020 at 10:36 pm

We all want a championship, We are with ya. Championships are extremely hard to come by and if you look at the odds no matter how good you are the odds are against you. IMO thats where people lose perspective, The odds aren't even in favor of the best team in the League KC. or one of the best records Pitt So when I hear media and fans Expecting a SB win, I get it, we are fans but to become very critical if they don't get our way is not productive to a team but man, its got to be hard to be a happy fan.
The Packers are in a position to win, to me its now on the players more than anyone else. Doesn't mean that the coaches have no impact buy in the end the onus is on Arod more than anyone or anything. Its why he is paid twice as much as the next highest paid member in the whole organization.

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CoachDino's picture

December 19, 2020 at 10:38 pm

We all want a championship, We are with ya. Championships are extremely hard to come by and if you look at the odds no matter how good you are the odds are against you. IMO thats where people lose perspective, The odds aren't even in favor of the best team in the League KC. or one of the best records Pitt So when I hear media and fans Expecting a SB win, I get it, we are fans but to become very critical if they don't get our way is not productive to a team but man, its got to be hard to be a happy fan.
The Packers are in a position to win, to me its now on the players more than anyone else. Doesn't mean that the coaches have no impact buy in the end the onus is on Arod more than anyone or anything. Its why he is paid twice as much as the next highest paid member in the whole organization.

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Spock's picture

December 18, 2020 at 07:16 am

Maggie, Nice rundown of the Panthers. Always enjoy your columns.

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Lphill's picture

December 18, 2020 at 07:32 am

Well just another team that invests in defense , what a concept !

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

December 18, 2020 at 08:25 am

You need to review the Packers top round draft picks over the past years. You should also review the signings of Z. Smith, P. Smith, and Amos. Perhaps you could then have an informed comment on defensive investments.

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Lphill's picture

December 18, 2020 at 10:36 am

I know about the Smiths thanks, its D lineman and inside linebacker they don't invest much in unless you're like some others here all good with the defense the way it is and just making the playoffs is enough for you .

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

December 19, 2020 at 02:56 am

"I know about the Smiths thanks" - I don't think you do.

I thoroughly enjoy making the playoffs. It seems that you fail to understand that a championship cannot be won without first making the playoffs. Please try to grasp this basic concept.

I also enjoy 10+ win seasons. I enjoy the Packers being competitive practically every season over the past 25 years. People like you would destroy the team for a decade in a quixotic attempt to win it all in a single season.

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PeteK's picture

December 19, 2020 at 11:07 am

Clark ,Gary however, the last draft was for the future and was hard to swallow right now, but if it works out it could make us competitive for a long time ( Queen would have definitely made our D better, enough to win a championship, probably not) . We still got 2 serviceable or better ILBs out of it. It's a fair debate; go get it now or future.

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Coldworld's picture

December 18, 2020 at 09:45 am

Well they made the current Seattle D look great last year and lost perhaps their two best players on top of that. They also have a cheaper QB. Hardly a surprise that they drafted D.

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Leatherhead's picture

December 18, 2020 at 10:09 am

Yeah, we’ll see what that Carolina defense does in the playoffs. Oh.....no we won’t

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PeteK's picture

December 18, 2020 at 11:56 am

Ahhh, to wish for a player like Chinn. It would be just what the doctor ordered for this D.

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Coldworld's picture

December 18, 2020 at 12:41 pm

Seemingly perfect fit for the Hybrid role.

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PeteK's picture

December 18, 2020 at 06:06 pm

Yes , 6"3 220, but to be fair, not easy to find. A player that can cover and play the run.

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TXCHEESE's picture

December 18, 2020 at 03:10 pm

'61 hit the nail on the head....No way would signing Martinez to what he got makes any sense for GB. I've said it before and will say it again. Martinez is basically Hawk 2.0. Not bad, but not a difference maker. He and Hawk were very solid, but rarely did they make that game changing play. Too many times tackles were 5-6 yards past the line of scrimmage.

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PeteK's picture

December 18, 2020 at 06:07 pm

Our present record and standing tells it all.

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