Editor’s note: We welcome Walker Clement of Cat Scratch Reader — our sister site covering the Carolina Panthers — for Five Questions with the Enemy as we head into the Week 9 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
1) How has the Matt Rhule Era been so far?
Somehow... both as advertised — and better than expected. There is this idea in football that the team who scores the most points by the end of the game typically wins. That idea was long controversial in the Carolinas, but it typifies the kind of cutting-edge thinking that Rhule has brought to the Panthers. Even at 3-5, the Panthers are both looking and finishing better than anybody expected in Rhule’s first year.
2) Do you think Teddy Bridgewater can hold up in a shootout?
We’re eight games in — and I’m honestly not sure. Bridgewater has looked consistently above average for 95% of his snaps. He’s the kind of quarterback who you don’t expect to win MVP — but also whom you don’t expect to lose a game all on his own. The only exception is that his mistakes seem to multiply when a game is on the line. I can’t tell if the pressure of game-winning drives gets to him, or if those situations only tend to arise when the rest of the team is already falling apart around him.
Long answer short: yes, he can hold up in a shootout — if the Panthers offensive line can keep him relatively clean.
3) What difference will Christian McCaffrey make on Sunday?
All reports are that McCaffrey is 100% back. That means touchdown potential on every touch. It’s harder to truly break games with that skill at the running back position than it is at the quarterback or wide receiver positions — the way with which Kansas City fans are familiar — but the opportunities will be there.
4) Which Chiefs player (not named Patrick Mahomes) would you want on the Panthers’ squad?
I would have said Chris Jones before he went on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. The Panthers are thinnest at the defensive tackle position after putting star Kawann Short on injured reserve a few weeks ago. Their young edge talent needs a little more help in the middle to perform at a competitive level.
Sans Jones, then the only option is Travis Kelce. Ian Thomas is decent at the tight end position, but the Panthers’ office is clearly missing an additional threat in the passing game — and Kelce would fit in nicely next to Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and whichever running back has an ankle this week.
5) How will Sunday’s game go?
It will be over long before the clock runs out. A lot of passing will slow the game time, but the score will be out of hand (in Kansas City’s favor) by the middle of the third quarter. The Panthers have been atrocious on third downs — including having forced only one punt in their last eight quarters of football. They’ll open the first half with a degree of competency and keep it within a score or two by halftime, but they have come out flat in a couple of second halves this year. They won’t be able to afford that against the reigning champs. If I had to wager, I’d say the game ends up being Chiefs 42, Panthers 31.