FanPicks Games of the Week: Panthers versus Patriots

Carolina Panthers vs New England Patriots Preview

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick built his reputation as a defensive guru so his team’s inability to slow the opposition has been among the more stunning developments in the first month of the season. Despite ranking last in the NFL in defense, the reigning Super Bowl champions go for their third straight win over the visiting Carolina Panthers on Sunday (1 p.m. ET on CBS).¬†Enter this Game of the Week contest right¬†here.

The Patriots are giving up 31.7 points and a staggering 461.0 yards per game and only the sensational play of quarterback Tom Brady has allowed them to overcome the glaring defensive deficiencies. On the other side, the Panthers are 2-1 but are having issues that belie their record — they have scored one touchdown in two weeks and are coming off a 34-13 beating at home to a New Orleans team that was shredded for 36 points and 555 yards by the Patriots one week earlier.

ABOUT THE PANTHERS (2-1)

Carolina’s defense allowed three points in each of its first two wins — against San Francisco and Buffalo — but had no answers for Drew Brees and the Saints. Former NFL MVP Cam Newton, who underwent surgery on his rotator cuff in the offseason, has twice as many interceptions (four) as touchdowns but received positive news when top wideout Kelvin Benjamin, who hurt his knee in last week’s setback, was a full participant in Thursday’s practice. Rookie running back Christian McCaffrey, the No. 8 pick in this year’s NFL draft, has done little in the ground game but had nine receptions for 101 yards against New Orleans. The Panthers’ defense ranks third in the league against the pass, allowing 162.0 yards per game.

ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (2-1)

New England’s defense was carved up by Kansas City in a 42-27 season-opening loss and allowed Houston rookie Deshaun Watson to throw for 301 yards in his second career start in last week’s 36-33 victory over the Texans. Brady was the league’s lowest-rated passer after Week 1 but has rebounded to win consecutive NFL Player of the Week awards, throwing for 378 yards and five touchdowns to rally the Patriots to a last-second victory a week ago. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks finally showed why New England used two draft picks to trade for him, hauling in five catches for 131 yards and two TDs against the Texans. The Patriots also have struggled against the run, yielding an average of 130.3 yards.

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