The Carolina Panthers had an awful first six weeks of the season, coming out as the NFL’s only winless team over a miserable opening stretch. So hopefully for them, the seventh week (their bye) helped bring some much-needed answers.
And if that is indeed the case, then here are four key matchups that’ll help them finally win in Week No. 8:
Panthers QB Bryce Young vs. Texans QB C.J. Stroud
While neither player will be on the field at the same time, the head-to-head narrative between these two is one of the biggest of the weekend.
It’ll be the first overall pick of the 2023 draft against the second, when Young hosts Stroud and company in Charlotte. But thus far, it’s the second pick who’s been playing like he should’ve been the first.
Stroud, who has passed for 1,660 yards, nine scores and just one interception, will happily carve up a vulnerable Carolina secondary while Young watches from the sideline. So Young will need to take full advantage of his time on the field and show off more of what we saw in the opening quarter down in Miami two Sundays ago.
If Young can put Carolina’s offense in advantageous positions, make some special plays and not turn the ball over, he could come out on top in a game that certainly means a lot to the No. 1 selection.
Panthers G Austin Corbett vs. his health
Corbett will be an oh-so-sweet sight on Sunday, especially for a team that may have been fielding the worst interior offensive line in football. And much like he did last season, the sixth-year hog molly should immediately boost the attitude and confidence of a struggling unit.
That being said, Corbett is coming off a fairly serious injury and his performance could suffer as he works his way back. So while he was given the green light to make his first start since tearing his ACL, the 28-year-old may still have to settle in.
Panthers OLB Brian Burns vs. Texans LT Laremy Tunsil
Speaking of hog mollies, there aren’t many better than the one Houston rosters on its blindside. Tunsil, year in and year out, has stood as one of the most reliable pass blockers in the game.
If Burns wants to smoke the talented left tackle, he’ll have to get into his bag—that is, if he’s allowed. The two-time Pro Bowl pass rusher did not participate in the final practice of the week and has been listed as questionable for the contest due to his elbow injury.
Panthers CB Donte Jackson vs. Texans WR Tank Dell
Carolina is also carrying some injuries on the backend of their defense, which has given way to one of the more vulnerable secondaries in the league. This week, they’ll be seeing some breakout stars in the Houston receiving room, including rookie Tank Dell.
The deep-ball specialist, who has been roasting secondaries, should see a lot of Jackson—Carolina’s answer to each offense’s speediest threat. But we’ve seen that answer come up wrong a few times already this season, most recently in South Beach against Tyreek Hill.
If Carolina wants to keep the Houston passing game in check, they must shut down the exciting rookie.