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NFL Preview - New England (7-2) at Carolina (6-3)



By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) - What's better than putting together a signature win?

How about back-to-back signature wins?

The up-and-coming Carolina Panthers have a chance to do exactly that in front of a national television audience when they host Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on "Monday Night Football."

The Patriots, who had a bye in Week 10, will look to continue the offensive success they had a week earlier when New England scored 55 points and racked up 610 yards of total offense in a 55-31 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Brady threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns without an interception in that one, his 15th game with at least four touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Pats -- not surprisingly -- are a perfect 15-0 in those contests.

Three New England receivers eclipsed the 100-yard mark to help the Patriots (7-2) move to 5-0 at home this season. Rob Gronkowski garnered a career-high nine receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown, Aaron Dobson had two scores on a five-catch, 130-yard effort and Danny Amendola totaled 122 yards and a touchdown on four grabs.

"It felt great out there," Gronkowski said. "It was important for us to play this way. Until now, we hadn't been clicking for all four quarters."

Stevan Ridley added a pair of rushing touchdowns while compiling 115 yards on 26 carries.

"There's a lot of football left to be played," said New England head coach Bill Belichick. "We just need to focus on what we're doing and who we're playing and try to go out there and play better than we've played, try to improve and try to win. We're not looking at anybody but Carolina right now."

The Panthers will be aiming for their sixth consecutive win behind a defense which has been one of the NFL's best, allowing 115 points, the second-fewest in the league coming into Week 11 behind only Kansas City (111).

Carolina is the only team in the NFL to rank in the top five in total defense (second), rushing yards allowed (second) and passing yards allowed (tied for fourth).

In their last encounter, the Panthers held San Francisco to nine points and 151 total net yards in a 10-9 victory. Entering that contest, the 49ers had averaged 34.8 points and 357.6 total net yards per game over their previous five contests.

"Everybody's on the same page," said Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson, who ranks second in the NFC with 8 1/2 sacks. "When everybody is on the same page, buying into the scheme, you're going to end up being successful. It's all about being a team and playing as one."

The Carolina defense held the 49ers to a paltry 2-for-13 conversion rate on third down and recorded six sacks.

DeAngelo Williams' touchdown run late in the first half was the only time either team found the end zone, and it helped the Panthers stay within a game of New Orleans in the NFC South race.

"There were a lot of good things that went on in this game today," said Carolina head coach Ron Rivera. "The defense did step up and play really well and I thought some of the things we did offensively, especially when we had good field position, were really good."

The Patriots have won three of their five all-time meetings with Carolina, including a thrilling 32-29 win in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Brady really hadn't been himself this season until exploding against the Steelers, thanks in large part to the uncertainty at the skill positions. The fact that Gronkowski and Amendola are now healthy and Dobson seems to getting it has to be a scary thought for most opposing defenses.

"They have a one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, a great coach, and now they are getting some players back. It is a tremendous challenge for our football team," Rivera said.

"Tom Brady is a very cerebral guy, he's been around a while, he knows where he's going with the ball, he's smart, he understands defenses," linebacker Luke Kuechly added. "So we've just got to do a good job of playing our job, doing our responsibilities and make sure we're in the right spot."

The Panthers, of course, aren't most defenses. Since taking over the middle linebacker position in Week 5 of the 2012 season, Kuechly, who earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his effort against San Francisco, has spearheaded an amazingly consistent group.

The imposing front seven is allowing a measly 82.0 yards per game on the ground.

"They're one of the best defenses in the league," Brady said. "We have to play really well. I think our execution has to be at its best."

The Carolina offense isn't nearly as formidable save for dynamic quarterback Cam Newton, who has thrown 13 touchdowns and rushed for four more so far this season. Veteran receiver Steve Smith and tight end Greg Olsen have been Newton's favorite targets but neither will pop the top off a defense at this stage.

Newton, though, seems to have realized that he can live to play another down so to speak and punting the football isn't the worst thing in the world with his defense. Taking care of the football is paramount and Newton has done so in recent weeks.

"He's playing very efficiently. He does a good job," Belichick said when asked about Newton. "He's obviously a threat with the ball in his hands to run. He can make all the throws.:

The Pats' defense has been hampered by injuries, especially up the middle where defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, along with linebacker Jerod Mayo have been lost to season-ending injuries.

That said Belichick believes his team is ready for Newton because they have already faced a few other mobile QBs like Buffalo's EJ Manuel and the Jets' Geno Smith.

"I think that a lot of the plays that Carolina runs we've seen from Buffalo and the Jets," Belichick said. "The fact that we have seen some of those plays, we've worked on the basic blocking schemes and how to fit on them, where everybody needs to be."

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Brady has a 13-4 career record on Monday nights and still enjoys the extra attention the stand-alone showcase provides.

"Monday Night Football is always pretty cool, especially when you play a really good team on Monday Night Football," the three-time Super Bowl champ said. "It's a fun night."

It won't be as much fun against this Carolina defense, however. Kuechly and Co. will do enough to slow down the Pats on the big stage to give the Panthers their sixth straight win.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Panthers 20, Patriots 16

11/18 09:06:00 ET

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Local
Final
CAR 2
STL 3
12:00pm Today
GT
NCSU
 
4:00pm Today
LOU
UNC
 
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
CAR
 
7:00pm Tonight
UVA
DUKE
 
7:00pm Tonight
ETST
NCCU
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
CHA
 
Final
PHI 103
MIN 94
Final
BOS 87
HOU 93
Final
ATL 105
POR 99
Final
CLE 101
SAC 90
Final
BRK 122
TOR 127
Final
MIA 72
DAL 93
Final
NOP 108
LAC 103
Final
UTA 110
GSW 100
Final
PHO 99
CHI 93
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
DAL
 
7:00pm Tonight
IND
SAC
 
7:00pm Tonight
WAS
TOR
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
HOU
 
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
PHI
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
CLE
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
OKC
 
8:30pm Tonight
MIL
POR
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
CHA
 
9:00pm Tonight
SAN
LAC
 
10:30pm Tonight
GSW
PHO
 
Final
PRIN 72
HARV 75
 
Final
CORN 57
BRO 49
 
Final
PENN 58
DART 51
 
Final
NIAG 61
MAR 65
 
Final
CAN 63
QUIN 57
 
Final
MAN 87
SIENA 79
 
Final
WILL 63
IUPUI 59
 
Final
FAIR 59
MON 60
 
Final
ARST 67
OREG 68
Final
CLMB 59
YALE 63
 
Final
BUF 80
KSU 55
 
Final
ARZ 57
ORST 34
12:00pm Today
TENN
AUB
 
12:00pm Today
CLEM
BC
 
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STJOE
DAVID
 
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GT
NCSU
 
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PITT
ND
 
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STJ
PROV
 
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USB
 
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WMICH
 
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UF
ARK
 
1:00pm Today
STET
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ILL
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TULSA
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INDST
BRAD
 
2:00pm Today
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GTDNS
 
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UGST
ARKST
 
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LEH
BU
 
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MARQ
BUT
 
2:00pm Today
DEL
COC
 
2:00pm Today
CREI
GEOR
 
2:00pm Today
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2:00pm Today
NEOM
MAST
 
2:00pm Today
LOYC
ILLST
 
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KU
KYST
 
2:00pm Today
JVU
KNST
 
2:00pm Today
MSST
LSU
 
2:00pm Today
SHU
MNTER
 
2:00pm Today
VCU
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2:00pm Today
ISU
TCU
 
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BING
MLOWELL
 
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HART
VERM
 
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DEP
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2:00pm Today
WAKE
VT
 
3:00pm Today
FAM
COOK
 
3:00pm Today
NDAK
IDST
 
3:00pm Today
ARMY
GHND
 
3:00pm Today
BEL
TENT
 
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UAB
 
3:00pm Today
ILLCH
VALPO
 
3:05pm Today
DRAK
EVAN
 
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IND
RUTG
 
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BST
 
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BRY
 
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CCST
 
4:00pm Today
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CCAR
 
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COPST
 
4:00pm Today
RFLSH
FD
 
4:00pm Today
RIU
GWU
 
4:00pm Today
SCAR
UGA
 
4:00pm Today
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LIU
 
4:00pm Today
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4:00pm Today
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LOU
UNC
 
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RAD
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SIUE
 
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UNCA
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MORE
EKENT
 
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NICST
INCWORD
 
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VANDY
 
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DET
 
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GRAM
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FRES
 
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ABCHRIST
 
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AKR
 
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KENT
ALA
 
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CLMB
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LIB
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CHAR
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ODU
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LONG
 
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SEMIZ
 
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NILL
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HOF
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SMU
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UTST
 
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SILL
 
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TROY
 
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ALAST
 
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TENST
JVST
 
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CHIST
 
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MEM
 
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COL
 
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UMKC
 
Final
NJD 1
PIT 2
Final
CAR 2
STL 3
Final
COL 3
NAS 0
Final
ANA 1
CHI 4
1:00pm Today
MON
WAS
 
2:00pm Today
DET
NYI
 
3:00pm Today
OTT
ARI
 
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
CAR
 
7:00pm Tonight
WIN
DAL
 
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
FLA
 
7:00pm Tonight
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LOS
 
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
TOR
 
7:30pm Tonight
TAM
CLB
 
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
EDM
 
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
CHI