Last week I would have said Carr should start but I've changed my mind after the Colts game. I hope Vinny can go because Carr has struggled in the passing game. Carr is much more mobile and has a stronger arm but just can't seem to make the big plays that the Panthers need to compete. Vinny on the other hand seems to run the offense better and will make the throws that need to be made. As afar as who will start at this point, Fox has been mum on the status of Vinny's foot but you can expect a final decision Friday afternoon.
2. Steve Smith has 3 games this season with more than 110 yards and 4 games with less than 50 yards. Is the reason for this a. lack of consistent QB play, b. the lack of a threat on the other side, or c. all of the above?
It's mostly about the QB. His first three games with Jake were very productive and he did well with Vinny against the Cardinals. But he and David Carr are not on the same page and it boiled to a head last week against the Colts. Smith was obviously not happy with Carr on the sideline last and it appears that Carr won't throw unless Smith has lots of room. Well, with no threat on the other side Smith is never going to get wide open yet that wasn't a problem with Jake or Vinny. Sure, another receiver would help but in the end Carr needs to chuck a few deep ones to Smith to keep the defense honest and Smith happy.
3. The Panthers' defense only has 4 sacks this season. Is that an accurate reflection of the pressure they are getting on the quarterback?
Yes, it's pretty accurate. The Panthers occasionally get pressure but not enough to change the game (outside of the Cardinals game). I'm not sure if it's more the players not performing or the defensive scheme being to conservative trying to prevent the big play. I'm inclined to say it's a little of both. Rucker has been better against the run but he doesn't get much of a rush anymore. Kris Jenkins is playing well and Kemo helps in stuffing the run. The Panthers need to run more stunts and blitzes if they are going to improve the pass rush.
4. Is Jon Fox feeling any pressure? Does he need to make the playoffs to keep his job?
People bring this up from time to time but honestly I don't think he's in danger at the moment. Now, if the Panthers really slide from here on out that may change. I like John Fox myself but if I had to point out his biggest fault it would be an unwillingness to change when the situation seems to warrant it. We obviously need some changes on the defensive front, the WR position and special teams but for some reason he continues to stick with the same players. It is really is getting frustrating watching no pass rush, dropped balls and poor kick returns. In the end that may doom the Panthers and John Fox.
5. I will flip your final question to you. How do you think the Panthers will game plan on each side of the ball. Give me a prediction.
Predicting the Panthers game plan has gotten real easy as they seem to stick to the same core of plays and defensive alignments. The Panthers will want to run the ball, first with DeShaun Foster and then with DeAngelo Williams. They like to run trap plays, stretches and screens. You can expect a couple WR end arounds and maybe even (heaven forbid) a reverse. They throw a lot of passes in the flat to the WR, TE and RB. Most passes will be dump offs to the TE over the middle and maybe a few short slants to the WR's. If they go deep, it will be a simple fly down the sideline.
On defense we run a 4-3 with some cover-2 mixed in. They are really just getting to the point were they will disguise some coverages and run zone blitzes, but not much. They will mostly rush 4 or 5 at the most with a LB being the 5 rusher. They had some success against the Cardinals blitzing the nickel back or safety but didn't do it at all last week. With Vince ailing they will focus on stopping the run and probably rush only 4 down linemen most of the time and hope Vince will make a mistake. The Panthers have shown a penchant for creating fumbles lately so maybe they get one or two against the Titans.
In my pre-season predictions I had put this game in the loss category. I can't do that now given the state of the Tennessee offense and the fact the Panthers are 4-0 on the road and 0-3 at home. Go figure.
Panthers 13 Titans 9