Lots of McCaf­frey on Sun­day at Cleve­land

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Panthers At Browns - BY JOUR­DAN RO­DRIGUE jro­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Five fear­less pre­dic­tions for Sun­day’s Carolina Panthers (6-6) game at Cleve­land (4-7-1):

1. BAKER MAYFIELD PROB­LEM­ATIC FOR PANTHERS

Like Tampa Bay did ef­fec­tively with quar­ter­back Jameis Win­ston last week, the Browns might try to loosen up the Panthers’ de­fen­sive front with some quar­ter­back runs. Mayfield also has got­ten fairly hot dur­ing the past few weeks, so I’d pre­dict he’s suc­cess­ful in the first half with 45 rush­ing yards and two pass­ing touch­downs in that time. Carolina will ad­just in the sec­ond half to con­tain him more ef­fec­tively.

2. LOTS AND LOTS OF CHRIS­TIAN MCCAF­FREY

Panthers quar­ter­back Cam New­ton has a sore shoul­der and is go­ing up against an ag­gres­sive Cleve­land front. So he’ll need to fa­vor shorter passes, and he’ll need to get the ball out quick. En­ter Chris­tian McCaf­frey, who leads the team in re­cep­tions with 80.

The Panthers also will try to run the ball, so I pre­dict McCaf­frey fin­ishes the game with 25 touches – 12 catches and 13 car­ries.

3. EX­PLO­SIVE PLAYS?

The Panthers’ strug­gling se­condary got a wake-up call last week with the fir­ing of se­condary/corner­backs coach Jeff Ima­mura and the re­align­ment of the de­fen­sive staff.

This will be the first game in the fi­nal four that Carolina does not al­low a pass­ing touch­down of 19-plus yards.

4. WILL RON RIVERA CALL AN AG­GRES­SIVE GAME?

Speak­ing of the se­condary, I’m not cer­tain coach Ron Rivera trusts his corner­backs to be on an is­land too of­ten against Cleve­land. That means he might not call as ag­gres­sive a first half as some might ex­pect — when you blitz, you of­ten leave corner­backs in one-on-one matchups.

I do think he’ll dial up a cou­ple of cre­ative sit­u­a­tional bl­itzes with safety Mike Adams and line­backer Shaq Thomp­son.

5. PANTHERS BREAK THE SLUMP, 21-14.

C’mon, they can’t lose to Cleve­land …

Right?

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