After watching a couple of predictable yawners on Turkey Day – Green Bay over Detroit (34-12) and Dallas over Oakland (24-7) – it’s time for some unpredictability with the Carolina Panthers (4-6) and New York Jets (4-6).
With losses last week, both teams are now on the outside looking in, playoff-wise, and there’s little drama playing out on the two sides.
Defensively, the Panthers should become the unofficial spokespersons for Icy Hot, with the team’s list of players with bumps, bruises and injuries getting longer as the weeks go by.
Linebacker Landon Johnson, who was brought in to replace Thomas Davis (ACL injury), is out for the season with a torn MCL, and it’s possible that Carolina’s other experienced linebacker – Na’il Diggs – could be a no-go for Sunday’s game at Giants Stadium with an injury of his own. That would leave leading tackler Jon Beason as the only player with extensive experience in the linebacker corps.
Defensive end Julius Peppers seems to still be dealing with a hand injury that limits him to pass plays and Charles Johnson, the other defensive end, could be out for another game with an injury.
Offensively, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was put on blast in the media by head coach Rex Ryan for his issues with making errant throws this season (six interceptions in the past two games – 16 for the season).
On a good note, both teams boast a strong running game. The Jets are tops in the NFL, while Carolina comes in at No. 3. They’re tied for fifth in the league with 13 rushing touchdowns.
So what happens on Sunday?
The Panthers’ DeAngelo Williams ought to get more opportunities to run the ball after averaging nearly 10 yards a carry against Miami last week. But Jets running back Thomas Jones is just as hot (four 100+ games in the last five games) and will get his chances to carry the ball, too – so this may come down to defense.
Unfortunately, the injury bug may be too much to overcome for Carolina. The Jets will win this one 21-10.
Damon Ford is a public relations professional who has worked in the public and private sectors in Charlotte. He is 4-6 in predicting Panthers games.