Friday, October 3, 2008

Sleeping WIth the Enemy: Week Five, Chiefs @ Panthers

Week four brings the Kansas City Chiefs to Charlotte, or Cat Country, as it were, and it means that this week's "Sleeping With the Enemy" guest is none other than John White from Cat Crave. Opposing conferences, records, stability at quarterback, and stout receiving crews are just a few of the differences between these two clubs. John and I break down the feathers and claws, just after the jump.

Bankmeister: Heading into Sunday's contest, the Panthers are 3-1. They had an impressive come-from-behind win week one at San Diego, squeaked out a victory over the Bears the following week, then fell to an under-performing Vikings squad before easily handling the Falcons. What's your prognosis of this team through one quarter of football? Jake Delhomme has put up average to better-than-average numbers having completed 72 of 120 pass attempts for a completion percentage of 60, and three touchdowns to one pick. In my estimation, he's been a signal caller that has wavered through the years from pretty dependable to not very good. What's the key for this guy to stay competitive and lead this team to somewhat-consistent victory?

John White: Jake Delhomme has actually been very consistent and was last season prior to his injury. He's a guy who will, on occasion, force a pass to his favorite receiver, Steve Smith, but usually plays within himself. He's the kind of player who will take a few risks. Call him a risk-reward QB.

Provided that Jake minimizes mistakes and keeps involving all of his receivers, he will remain one of the most underappreciated signal callers in the league.

B: As far as the rushing game, the veteran DeAngelo Williams has 10 more carries than the rookie Jonathan Stewart, but the youth's YPC is better, he's almost matched Williams' total yardage, and he has four scores to his elder's zero. Is Williams being phased out, or are they used as situational backs?

JW: John Fox seems content to keep Williams as the starter on paper while maintaining the running back by committee. Stewart has outplayed the veteran and should be considered the team's top back despite what is listed on the depth chart. In time, I expect the rookie to suplant Williams as the starter. Even then, expect them to share an equal load in the Panthers' offense.

B: Perhaps the receiving corps looks most impressive to a guy that knows very little about this Panthers club. With Steve Smith out early on, having Muhsin Muhammad on the roster looks intelligent, and Dante Rosario appears to be having a solid second year. Of course D.J. Hackett is right there with him in terms of similar numbers. How does the depth chart for route runners look for this club? Are they all relatively equal? Does Delhomme do a good job of spreading it around, or will Smith blast by everyone as the season really gets rolling?

JW: Steve Smith's suspension may have been a blessing in disguise. Delhomme had a bad habit of focusing on him far too often. He was forced to break that habit using guys like Rosario and Hackett more often. This will likely will help in the long run since Jake will gain more trust in the other players around him. Plus, with Muhsin Muhammad lined up opposite Smitty, expect shades of 2003 all over again. The comfort level between Jake and Moose is one major factor that will play a part in this offense. And when Smith is receiving double teams, Moose will be there.

B: If memory serves correctly, John Fox has always been touted as a defensive-minded coach. Looking at the raw numbers, though, there aren't a lot of picks or sacks for Carolina through four weeks. At the same time, though, they're holding teams to an average of 17.5 points per game, which I imagine is better than average. Is this club one of tough defensive fundamentals without flashy plays, or is there more pizzaz to the D than the numbers relay?

JW: The bread and butter of this defense will be speed. There is some beef in the middle with Kemoeatu and Lewis but the linebackers are all fast from sideline to sideline. Thomas Davis is showing major improvement while Diggs is growing. Of course, Jon Beason is the Beast of the defense. The secondary has its moments and they are exceptional at stripping the ball. Remember that the Panthers lead the league in takeaways since they came into the league.

B: Not that the game against the Chiefs is a tough one, but the schedule after that looks pretty easy. There are five division games, and the NFC South is often pitted as one of the weaker in football. Granted, the Bucs could be for real, but at this point, it's very plausible that the South belongs to the Panthers. Outside of the division are games with Arizona, Detroit, two more AFC West matches, and possible hiccups coming in the form of Green Bay and the Giants. How many of these games can Carolina easily (or with some difficulty) win? If there's any shred of correctness in my assessment, they'll be in the playoffs. If that's true, how far do they go?

JW: In all honesty, and not to sound like a homer, I believe that Carolina is capable of winning at least ten games this season. There is also an outside chance to win more than that. Provided that they eliminate the mental errors (false starts) and protect the ball, they have a chance to do some really special things in '08. I fully expect at least a 10-6 or 11-5 record and believe that a divisional title is a distinct possibility. Stephen Davis told me that if this team makes the playoffs they'll go all the way. While I like his enthusiasm, love it actually, I'm not sure I agree. In a suddenly questionable NFC, anything can happen, but it's more realistic to think a one-and-out or one-win-and-out scenario is more likely.

B: Finally, the Chiefs game. How do you see this one shaking down with Kansas City finally snapping their 12-game losing streak? How do the two clubs match up against one another? Score prediction?

JW: One word - PRESSURE. Hit Huard early and often, shut down Larry Johnson and rule the line of scrimmage. Against a questionable KC offensive line these are more than realistic goals. The defense is well aware of what it's like to face a big time back after seeing LT, Forte, Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner in their first four games. The Chiefs receivers are far from a formidable bunch so the defense will make them earn everything they get.

The Panthers offense will be more of the same - run the ball, and test the young corners employed by KC. Expect Smitty to have a big day. There should be no need for last-second heroics. Carolina wins easily 34-13.

B: Alright, John. It's been a pleasure having you. As for our prediction, well, we're going to dive into the SWtE well of unprecedentedness and agree 100% with your score prediction. Panthers should and could win 34-13, but we're going to be pulling for the guys with this on their helmets:

If there were a rough focus to this blog, and believe me there is, it's that we're total homers and seldom try to not sound like it. Best of luck to your Panthers, and if you would, tell Stephen Davis to stop by the House and click on some of our ads. Homers is broke these days.