Patriots D-Line vs. Panthers O-Line
The Patriots run defense took a major hit Week 4 when Vince Wilfork was lost for the season, then got more bad news prior to Week 8 when it was announced Tommy Kelly would miss the rest of the year too. Rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones have come in to try and plug the gap up the middle, but it has mostly taken two players to fill the space Wilfork used to cover by himself. The Pats have 29 sacks on the year, and have pushed opponents back a total of 199 yards on those sacks.
Cam Newton’s scrambling and running ability have made it less necessary for the Panthers to need a tight offensive line, and the young Carolina QB has been sacked 25 times on the year, tied for 15th in the league. Take away Newton’s rushes and the Panthers running game is severely hampered, as they have just one true runner who can pick up yards in DeAngelo Williams. The Patriots will need to try and lock down fullback Mike Tolbert in the red zone, who has attributed for four of Carolina’s 10 rushing touchdowns on the season.