Patriots-Panthers preview: 3 things to watch for Monday night

Rob Gronkowski Patriots
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski looks to be fully healthy heading into Monday’s matchup with the Panthers. Credit: Getty Images

For the second straight Sunday, Patriots fans had to make due without their team.

But they’ll all be rewarded Monday, as the Patriots (7-2) take on the Panthers (6-3) in North Carolina (8:40 p.m., ESPN).

New England comes into this game off its most impressive offensive performance of the season – a 55-31 win over the Steelers in Week 9. But perhaps even more impressive is Carolina’s 10-9 win over the 49ers in San Francisco in Week 10.

With that win, the Panthers officially became the hottest team in the NFC, having won five games in a row. Cam Newton, while not putting up the crazy fantasy football numbers he has in the past, has his team on a path to the postseason despite having started the year 1-3.

Can the Patriots halt the streak? Here are three things to look for:

1. Managing Newton
After throwing three interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 6, Newton has thrown a total of three interceptions in the five games leading into Monday night’s game. The Panthers have scored 30-plus points in four of those five games, and have also won those same four games by more than 14 points. But even with all those points, Newton hasn’t amassed 250 passing yards in any of them. The Patriots should have Aqib Talib back and that should make things tough on Newton. Still, the Patriots’ defensive line and linebackers have to also respect the former Heisman Trophy winner’s ability to run. Newton has 266 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns this season. Keeping him in the pocket and forcing him to throw under pressure is important.


2. Panthers D – really that good?
It’s a good thing the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola back healthy. They may even have Shane Vereen back too. They’re going to need them all. The Panthers rank second in the NFL in rushing defense and fifth in the NFL in pass defense. Carolina has benefitted from getting ahead early in the game and owning time of possession. If the Patriots offense jumps out to an early lead, that will put Carolina in an unfamiliar situation both offensively and defensively. Bill Belichick knows Gronkowski’s blocking is key against a tough defense.
“I think Rob gives good balance to his position. He can block, he can run, he can catch,” Belichick said. “He creates, gives us balance in whatever we ask him to do: pass protection, run blocking, possession passing, downfield passing, red area.”

3. Bye week return
Under Belichick, the Pats are 10-3 after the bye week, and 9-1 over the last 10 seasons. They’re also 5-1 on the road after the bye week. Since 2010, they’re 24-1 in the second half of the season, too. Not to say that what happened in 2004 has any bearing on this season, but the point is Belichick and the Patriots will be more than prepared.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

Movies

Shia LaBeouf disorderly conduct case pushed to September

A judge on Thursday adjourned until September the disorderly conduct and harassment case against actor Shia LaBeouf, who was charged with disturbing a Broadway theater…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.