Previewing the opposition: Carolina Panthers

The Jets have back-to-back home games coming off the bye and two wins could vault them back into postseason contention. It won't be easy though, as their first test comes against a tough 7-3 Panthers team that has won three in a row.

Let's review how their roster shapes up:


Having lost to 2016's MVP (Matt Ryan) last month, the Jets have a chance to beat 2015's MVP Cam Newton tomorrow. Like Ryan, Newton's numbers have been down since he won the award, but he has completed a career-best 62% of his passes.

Most dual threat quarterbacks run less as they get older, but that's not been the case with Newton who is on a pace to eclipse last year's numbers.

He got shoulder surgery in the offseason and has had ankle and thumb injuries during the season, so if he gets knocked out, veteran Derek Anderson would replace him.

Offensive line

The Panthers offensive line isn't bad, although Matt Kalil - who signed for a mind-boggling $55 million contract in the offseason - can be a liability at times. He's given up a team-high five sacks.

The center position could also be an issue with starter Ryan Kalil and his backup Tyler Larsen each listed as questionable. Kalil is an 11th-year veteran but has only seen action in two games all year. Larsen - a former undrafted free agent - has held up well in his absence.

The other three starters are right guard Trai Turner, left guard Andrew Norwell and right tackle Daryl Williams and all three have played well this year. The guards haven't given up a sack between them, although Turner leads the team in penalties.

It's unlikely both centers will miss the game, but the third string center is the inexperienced Greg Van Roten. Also on the bench are a former starter in Aminu Silatolu and a rookie in Taylor Moton.

Running Backs

The Panthers running game has been a bit of a disappointment with Jonathan Stewart averaging 3.3 yards per carry and rookie Christian McCaffrey averaging just 3.0 yards per carry. Statistically, they stack up well, but that's because they've had good success with end-around type runs and Cam Newton scrambling and running read-option type plays.

McCaffrey has made more of an impact in the passing game, leading the team with 57 receptions and three of his five total touchdowns.

Rookie Alex Armah is the fullback, but doesn't feature very often on offense.


There's been a dramatic shake-up in the passing game over the last month as the Panthers have traded Kelvin Benjamin and added rookie Curtis Samuel to injured reserve, but are also getting Greg Olsen - one of the league's best tight ends - back from injury.

With Benjamin gone, there was some internal complaining, but the Panthers have been leaning more on Devin Funchess over the past few games and that's been working out quite well. They also use McCaffrey as a wideout.

Russell Shepherd is listed as the other starting receiver but he dropped three passes in the Panthers' last game against Miami.

Ed Dickson had been filling in for Olsen at tight end and he scored his first touchdown of the season against the Dolphins.

Defensive line

The Panthers' line is anchored by the formidable Kawann Short, who is excellent against the run.

Also, Julius Peppers continues to produce off the edge in the twilight of his career, leading the team with 7.5 sacks.

The rest of the defensive line hasn't been as successful, but they have a ton of experience with Star Lotulelei and Kyle Love inside and Charles Johnson and Mario Addison on the edge.

Last year's first round pick Vernon Butler brings some youth on the interior line.


The Jets are facing another solid linebacker group, which perhaps doesn't bode well, given how badly they struggled against the Bucs. Luke Kuechly leads the team in tackles again, while fellow veteran Thomas Davis also plays an every down role and Shaq Thompson showcases versatility and athleticism.

David Mayo, a 2015 5th-round pick, is usually the first linebacker off the bench.

Defensive backs

The Panthers' secondary took a hit this weekend as Captain Munnerlyn, who has been ill, was ruled out for this game. Munnerlyn, who is the Panthers' best slot cornerback, scored on a pick six against the Jets four years ago.

With Munnerlyn out, the Panthers could give more reps to Kevon Seymour or LaDarius Gunter in the slot or they might just use Thompson more in the nickel package.

Seymour had been splitting reps with Daryl Worley at cornerback, a fact that apparently didn't sit well with last year's third round pick. Another 2016 draft pick, second rounder James Bradberry, is the other starting corner.

36-year old Mike Adams has been consistent this year at safety and Kurt Coleman provides experience beside him. Colin Jones has seen action as a third safety and could be a nickel option, but they also recently got Jairus Byrd back from injury.

Special teams

The kicking game is in good hands with Graham Gano having made 20 of 21 field goals this year and Michael Palardy in the top 10 for net yards as a punter with only 77 return yards. Palardy also took reps at quarterback in practice this week, albeit only because both back-ups were ill.

McCaffrey was supposed to boost the return game this year, but hasn't done much so far. Backup receiver Kaelin Clay took over kickoffs last week and has been listed as the punt returner, while backup running back Fozzy Whittaker has been listed as the kickoff returner despite not having returned one yet this year.

In kick coverage, the Bucs are led by Mayo, who is leading the team in special teams tackles for the second straight year.