Injuries Mount as Panthers Prowl Lambeau Field This Week

Come on, fans....admit it. This season has been an insane one for the Carolina Panthers thus far.

Nobody would have thought that it would be the offense carrying a team with a struggling defense?

Were we not supposed to have a group of the "league's sorriest wide receivers?"

Those two bookend offensive tackles that weren't even drafted and couldn't pass-block?

Cam Newton was unusually well-protected last week, but what most people don't know is that the Cincinnati defense is statistically pretty bad, too. They actually are 28th in yards allowed while that of the Panthers is 26th.

Some strange things are going this season no matter how you slice it. 

It's an interesting backdrop to think about as the team heads north to play in Titletown. I have always respected the Packers organizational skill over their history as well as their legendary coach, Vince Lombardi. Now the Panthers have to play in the shadow of history as well as the bright light of the day in a hostile stadium again. 

With two teams noted for offense and scoring points lately after sluggish starts, neither team can call their defense a strength. The Packers are 19th in total yards allowed. 

It all makes the injury situation that much more concerning for Carolina. You're all probably aware of the problem with injuries to our running back corps so I looked at who has been held out of practice this week. The list is rather long:

Roman Harper, Kelvin Benjamin, Fozzy Whittaker, Bene' Benwikere, Thomas Davis, Amini Silatolu, Dwan Edwards, DeAngelo Williams, Greg Olsen and Chase Blackburn were all held out of practice. 

The good news is that Jonathan Stewart participated fully. 

While some of those not practicing can get away with it as veterans, four are new to the team this year and three of them are rookies. They especially need their reps.

Many of these guys will probably play but a key player may not be. Kelvin Benjamin is being treated for a concussion. There are entire articles I could write about that situation, being that he was obviously shaken up early in last week's game but was allowed to return. That bears investigating. 

If Benjamin can't go this weekend, the offense will be at a serious disadvantage. He has proven himself a worthy target despite having recent issues with dropping passes. He still makes more than his share of our big plays in the passing game along with Olsen with Avant making an occasional clutch catch.

Without The Kelvinator, we may be right back to using Cam Newton as the true dual-threat quarterback and competitor that he truly is. Last week, he looked more like his old young self so to speak, and just in time it looks like.

Having Stewart back to shoulder a nice bit of the load will be nice, but Cam is probably going to be off and running another double-digit number of times. With little depth at the RB position, look for more trips or "bunch" type sets with Olsen, Avant, and Cotchery perhaps likely.

Now if only our pass rush can wake up and get after AR-12 early, we could have a chance. I'm just tired of seeing us giving up all these big plays. Last week, we gave Giovanni Bernard an 89-yard TD run and his first 100-yard rushing game ever. Yep, incredible but true.

The road through Wisconsin doesn't get any easier with Eddie Lacy's presence either. Aaron Rodgers isn't lacking for talented targets and our secondary has been atrocious. At least the rush defense has been more atrocious. 

In order to win, it looks like Cam is going to have to pull off another do-it-all performance, or close to it. Stewart can finally step back in this week, it looks like. Other than that, There's a lot of banged-up talent on the list whether they play or not.

All that aside, the Panthers stand a fair chance of pulling this one off. I have seen stranger things happen, so hang on until game day and we'll have a lot clearer picture.

Above all, #KeepPonding 

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