Rams @ Panthers: Week One Preview
The Los Angeles Rams will kick off week one on the road against the Carolina Panthers. As two teams that don’t usually face each other, the unfamiliarity could play a role in either teams’ performance. The most recent contest between the two clubs came in 2016 when the Panthers defeated the Rams 13-10 in Los Angeles. Looking at the current matchup, both teams return majority of their nucleus’. Let’s take a deeper dive into the matchup (all stats used from TeamRankings). You can bet on the odds from the week one contest here.
In 2018, the Rams were 7-2 on the road while the Panthers were 5-3 at home. The Rams’ offense averaged 30.8 points per game (2nd), 412.4 yards per game (3rd), 5.3 third-down conversions per game (9th), and 30:46 of average time of possession (8th). All marks were impressive for the Rams’ offense as Head Coach Sean McVay deployed a dynamic and explosive unit. For the Rams, they return 9/11 starters on the offensive side of the ball, with the only two substitutions coming in at left guard where Joseph Noteboom will start, and at center where Brian Allen will start. The Rams return a healthy Cooper Kupp, who was recovering from a torn ACL during the offseason. The offense looks to remain lethal as not many questions remain for that side of the ball, sans running back Todd Gurley’s health.
Defensively, the Panthers allowed 23.9 points per game (20th), 355.1 yards per game (20th), 4.6 third down conversions per game (8th), and averaged 1.4 takeaways per game (14th).The Rams will look to exploit the Panthers with a strong outside-zone rushing attack, opening up deeper areas of the field that will be exploited by their potent play action passing attack. The Panthers’ defense boasts some talented players, mainly along the defensive line (Kawaan Short, Gerald McCoy, Mario Addison, Brian Burns), though middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is always one to look out for. The secondary is likely to be the Achilles heel for the Panthers, and that doesn’t bode well against a potent passing attack like the Rams’.
The Panthers’ offense averaged 23.5 points per game (14th), 373.2 yards per game (9th), 4.8 third-down conversions per game (16th), and 30:43 of average time of possession (9th). Offensively, the Panthers ranked average to above average in 2018, looking to surpass those marks on Sunday. The additions of a healthy Greg Olsen and Daryl Williams are sure to help, as are key additions like center Matt Paradis. The onus – like always – will fall on quarterback Cam Newton, as well as workhorse running back Christian McCaffrey. Newton spent the offseason rehabbing his shoulder issues, though he’s now nursing a small foot injury that won’t keep him out of the week one contest. The main area of focus for the Panthers has to be defensive tackle Aaron Donald, as well as the Rams’ secondary which is known to create big plays.
Defensively, the Rams allowed 23.3 points per game (18th), 354.8 yards per game (18th), 4.2 third-down conversions per game (3rd), and averaged 1.7 takeaways per game (7th). The Rams will need to look out for the Panthers’ new duo at receiver in D.J. Moore who excels after the catch, and up-and-comer Curtis Samuel who’s developing into a star. McCaffrey’s ability, both as a runner and receiver out of the backfield, are massive features of the Panthers offense, making McCaffrey target #1 for the Rams to focus on. Lastly, you can’t forget about Newton’s ability to launch the ball deep, or his penchant for creating big plays using his mobility.
This matchup is sure to be an interesting one as the teams aren’t outrageously mismatched, though the Rams clearly enter the contest as the superior roster dating back to 2018. The Panthers will field what looks to be a relatively new offense though, placing them in a sneaky position to potentially upset the Rams. As it stands, the Rams are currently ranging from -2 to -4.5 favorites, and I have them winning this matchup. My prediction is going to be Rams 27, Panthers 20. The Rams’ coaching staff and continuity will hail king in the week one matchup between the Rams and the Panthers.