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Chiefs-Panthers preview: What the stats say

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NFL: Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long week and I’m ready for some football on Sunday. The Chiefs take on a team that went 15-1 and made it to the Super Bowl last season but overall has not played well in 2016 despite winning two straight.

A peek into the Panthers stats will give an idea of what has been plaguing them.

Offense

The stats are per game averages and numbers in parentheses are NFL rank.

The Chiefs offensive numbers have pretty much stayed the same over the past few weeks. The Chiefs continue to be a middle of the pack offense.

The Panthers offense has played a little better than the Chiefs but they make more mistakes. Cam Newton is sacked more often than Alex Smith and Nick Foles have been; which kind of says a lot.

Now, the stats may look like Cam Newton has been doing an awful job taking care of the ball, but that is not true. Derek Anderson has started one game for the Panthers, and also played in the majority of another. During these two games Derek Anderson threw four interceptions. This has caused the Panthers interception numbers to be slightly bloated.

Cam Newton hasn’t helped with his six interceptions on the season, but four interceptions in two games drove the Panthers interception numbers up. If you only counted the Cam Newton interceptions, the Panthers would rank 21st in the NFL in interceptions thrown per game.

Quarterback Comparison

I chose to throw out Alex Smith’s numbers against the Colts since he did not play the full game. We will also throw out Cam Newton’s game against the Falcons since he was pulled during the game. (The ratings are based on their full seasons though)

Below are the per game stats for both quarterbacks in Sunday’s game.

Cam Newton: 261 yards, 57.9 percent, 1.3 TDs, 1.0 INTs, 82.5 Rating, 45 rushes for 207 yards.

Alex Smith: 252 yards, 67.8 percent, 1.0 TDs, 0.3 INTs, 94.3 Rating, 19 rushes for 31 yards.

Simply looking at the stats I think Alex Smith has a slight edge on Cam Newton but Cam has run the ball well too.

Defense

The Chiefs have continued to improve nearly everywhere on defense over the past four weeks except when it comes to their rushing defense. The Chiefs and Panthers rushing defenses are like night and day. We’ll take a look at this in the next section to see how concerned Chiefs fans should be.

Who Have the Panthers Played?

We’ll take a look at the Panthers opponents to see if there are any reasons for some of the Panthers season numbers.

In eight games the Panthers have played two top 10 rushing offenses (49ers, Falcons.) It might actually be fair to think the Panthers rushing defense might be a little worse than their numbers would indicate.

The Panthers have only faced two top 10 offenses as a whole in 2016. In fact, the Panthers have faced only three teams with better points per game offenses than the Chiefs (Broncos, Falcons, Saints.) In those games the Panthers allowed 37 points per game. It may be fair to say the Panthers defense is actually worse than their stats would suggest.

The Panthers have faced three top 10 defenses in 2016. In those games the Panthers averaged 20 points per game. The Chiefs have the ninth ranked defense in the NFL so the Chiefs would do well for themselves to hold the Panthers to 20 points.

Since the Panthers have played three games against top 10 defenses, and Cam Newton missed significant time in two games during the season it would be fair to think the Panthers offense is better than their stats would suggest.

Weakness vs Weakness

Alex Smith’s Passing vs Panthers Secondary - In case you missed it, Alex Smith does not throw for a lot of yards. The Panthers secondary gives up a lot of yards. This is a matchup to watch.

Strengths vs Weaknesses

Panthers rushing defense vs Spencer Ware (I hope) - The Panthers run defense is one of the best in the NFL, and the Chiefs average four yards per carry which is good for 20th in the NFL. If the Chiefs can’t get their running game established it puts way too much weight on Alex Smith’s shoulders. Let’s hope Spencer Ware is effective.

Chiefs ball hawks vs Cam Newton’s arm - Newton averages an interception per game. The Chiefs are intercepting 1.5 passes per game. I would be surprised if the Chiefs didn’t come away with an interception in this game.

Strengths vs Strengths

Alex Smith’s safe play vs Panthers secondary - The Panthers defense is averaging one interception a game - good for sixth in the NFL. We all know Alex Smith likes to take care of the ball. This is another matchup to keep an eye on.

Chiefs defense vs Panthers offense - Both of these units are in the top 10 in the NFL. I hate to sound all John Madden, but if the Chiefs defense can hold the Panthers offense at bay I like the Chiefs chances to win in this one.