The Panthers are off to their best start in franchise history at 6-0 entering this week eight match up against a Colts team who were voted to be Super Bowl favorites by many, but that's not the case so far. Instead, they will be coming to Charlotte for Monday night football at 3-4, yet somehow still in first place in what has been a bad AFC South division for a while and looks very similar to the NFC South last year. So let's compare the numbers.
199.5 ypg (29th) PASSING 257.7 (10th)
144.7 ypg (1st) RUSHING 93.6 (26th)
344.2 ypg (21st) TOTAL 351.3 (17th)
27 ppg (6th) SCORING 21 (24th)
All but two of these numbers obviously favor the Colts, but the Colts offense has played from behind most of this season forcing them to pass more often than not. Where as, the Panthers have had a lot of success running the ball and holding leads through out the games and NOT having to force the ball down field. That's been the Panthers m.o. and they will look to continue that trend against a porous defense as you will see below.
339.8 ypg (9th) TOTAL 408.6 (31st)
229.8 ypg (7th) PASSING 285.9 (29th)
110 ypg (18th) RUSHING 122.7 (23rd)
This is where the Panthers really separate themselves in this match up, as with most. The Colts defense hasn't been able to help their reeling offense by allowing opposing offenses to march up and down the field. The Panthers will most certainly look to continue the strong running game with a heavy dose of Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. Maybe even some Cameron Artis-Payne if things are going well.
Greg Olsen could be in for a potentially tough night, particularly in the red zone. Indianapolis' defense has only allowed one touchdown so far against opposing tight ends this season. However, the only other elite tight end they have faced so far is Rob Gronkowski, who was held to a respectable 3/50/1 line, but was able to score.
The Panthers defensive line should be able to get constant pressure on Andrew Luck all night. Luck is dropping back behind an offensive line allowing 2.1 sacks per game, good for 18th in the league. Jared Allen will be looking to get his first sack on Andrew Luck and Kawann Short will look to carry his dominant October NFC Defensive Player of the Month performance into November.
The revamped Carolina offensive line has been playing well so far this season. They are allowing 1.8 sacks per game, good for 8th in the league. This line has and should continue to improve each week as long as they can stay healthy and they continue to gel.
Before the season I would have never thought my prediction would be as heavily favored for Carolina in this game. However, this Colts team has not looked good at all and the Panthers have seemed to find a good rhythm this season behind a great running game and defense. Carolina doesn't have the big name weapons on offense, but with this Colts defense you don't really have to. Shula has done a good job so far this season of utilizing the guys he has well in different looks and I can't see a struggling Colts defense stopping Cam Newton and company under the lights in Charlotte.
FINAL PREDICTION: Panthers win 31-13