NFL Preview – Carolina (3-2-1) at Green Bay (4-2) (ET)

By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) – The streaking Green Bay Packers will aim for their
latest October win when they welcome Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers to
Lambeau Field.

If Aaron Rodgers wasn’t dating Olivia Munn and in the midst of compiling a
list of likes for Match.com, you can bet Lambeau and the month of October
would headline things.

The All-Pro quarterback has won 30 of his last 33 starts on his home field and
the numbers only get better for Green Bay when the Halloween decorations come
out. The Packers are 15-1 in their last 16 October starts and have won nine
straight in the month overall, averaging 31.2 points per game over that span.

The latest fall win was a little more difficult but in the end Rodgers faced
off with his former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin for the first time and
engineered a game-winning two-minute drill.

Rodgers threw a 4-yard touchdown pass with three seconds remaining to lift the
Packers to a dramatic 27-24 win over the Miami Dolphins.

Andrew Quarless’ catch in the front-right corner of the end zone capped a 60-
yard drive in 2:01 that included a fake spike by Rodgers to set up a 12-yard
completion on the previous play.

“A-Rod, I think that last drive, it just shows you what kind of leader he is,”
said Quarless of Rodgers. “He’s just decisive and he makes plays. I’m thankful
he came to me with it. It just shows how we’re building.”

Philbin, who helped turn the Packers quarterback into an MVP and is now in his
third year as coach of the Dolphins, wasn’t quite as thankful.

“I have to do a better job, first and foremost,” Philbin said. “I’m the head
coach. We had a lead with four minutes to go. Like I said often, you win as a
team and you lose as a team. We could have done better in all three phases,
coaching as well.”

The winning throw came after Ryan Tannehill led the Dolphins on three straight
second-half touchdown drives to take the lead before Miami was forced to punt
on its fourth possession.

Rodgers passed for 264 yards and three touchdowns in his 100th regular-season
game, the other two going to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Nelson gained 107
yards on nine catches, including an 18-yard gain on fourth down on the winning
drive.

“An excellent road victory,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy remarked. “We
knew this was going to be a tough game coming down here in the heat. The thing
that impressed me the most in our victory is just the grit of our football
team; the way each phase picked up for one another.”

The Panthers, on the other hand, came out of Week 6 with neither a win nor a
loss.

Mike Nugent and Graham Gano each kicked field goals in overtime, but Nugent
missed a potential game-winner as the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina
played to a 37-37 tie.

“The first time in my life,” Newton said of the tie. “It’s kind of weird where
you play good enough to win. It’s kind of a 50-50 feeling. I don’t know how to
react.”

Nugent opened the extra session with a 42-yard kick, and his counterpart with
the Panthers, Gano, knotted the score with a 36-yarder on Carolina’s
possession.

Cincinnati took over with just over two minutes to play in OT, and Andy
Dalton’s 24-yard completion to James Wright near the right sideline set up
Nugent’s 36-yard attempt with four seconds to play, which was pushed wide
right as the clock hit zero.

“You want to come up with a victory there. That’s a shame,” said Bengals head
coach Marvin Lewis.

Gano forced overtime with a 44-yard field goal as time expired in regulation.

Newton had his best effort of the season for Carolina, compiling 391 total
yards — 284 passing and 107 rushing — with three total touchdowns.

“You talk about the missed opportunities, we had a number of them,” said
Carolina coach Ron Rivera. “We had opportunities to win this football game.”

The Packers lead the all-time series by a 7-4 margin.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Nearly every week Rodgers sets new milestones. With his effort in Miami, the
veteran became the first player to throw 15 TDs with one or fewer
interceptions in the first six games of a season.

He also now has 203 career TD passes, the second-most ever by a player in his
first 100 games, trailing only ex-Dolphin star Dan Marino (217). Rodgers is
currently ranked second in the NFL with a 111.4 passer rating and has thrown
170 passed without being picked off.

“I need to work on my vocabulary,” McCarthy said. “The guy is a remarkable
player. Aaron sees the game so well, like none other. Things come to him
differently than other guys.”

The best hope for the Panthers is bottling up Green Bay’s running game, which
is just 24th in the NFL, averaging 94.8 yards per game, a big drop from he
133.5 the Packers averaged in 2013.

Second-year man Eddie Lacy has been the culprit. After a great rookie season,
Lacy has lacked explosion this time around save for one effort against
Minnesota.

If Carolina can stop the run, it will at least have a chance to force
Rodgers off his spots at times and make things a little more difficult for
him. The Panthers, however, have struggled mightily defending the pass,
surrendering 12 TD throws in six games after allowing a total of 17 a year
ago.

That bodes well for Nelson, who leads the NFL with 632 receiving yards and has
already caught five scores from Rodgers.

Newton may not be Rodgers but he is certainly one of the most unique talents
ever to play the QB position. He threw for 284 yards with two touchdowns and
rushed for 107 yards with a score versus the Bengals and is the only player in
NFL history with at least 250 passing yards, two touchdown passes, 100 rushing
yards and a rushing touchdown in a single game, having done it twice now.

“When you keep getting numerous yards, you have to keep calling it,” Newton
said when discussing his rushing success against the Bengals. “That’s just the
simplicity of football. Coming into this game, I didn’t think I was going to
run the ball as much. But like I said, that’s my attitude – anything it takes
to win, I’m willing to do.”

Newton has also run for a quarterback-best 2,181 yards and 29 TDs since
entering the NFL in 2011 with that TD number being an astonishing 18 ahead of
second place.

Panthers rookie Kelvin Benjamin leads the team and all first-year players with
416 receiving yards but missed practice Wednesday with what Rivera called a
“mild” concussion suffered in Cincinnati.

The first-round draft pick appeared to suffer the concussion on a hit in the
second quarter that drew an unnecessary roughness penalty on Bengals
linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was fined Wednesday for two other incidents
during the game.

Starting Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams has remained sidelined at
practice with an ankle injury that caused him to miss his second straight
game, but Jonathan Stewart was a full participant on Wednesday. Stewart, who
didn’t practice fully at all last week, has missed the last three games with a
knee sprain. Rivera said he “had a good day” taking the majority of reps at
running back.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Newton has only faced Green Bay once previously, a 30-23 loss in Charlotte
during his rookie season in which he threw for a career-high 432 yards.
Rodgers countered with 308 yards, two scores and most importantly the
win.

Expect a similar result here. A-Rod’s numbers at Lambeau and in the month of
October speak for themselves.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Packers 31, Panthers 20