Even when they’re playing a non-rival such as these Carolina Panthers, the New England Patriots rarely carry in a lack of intrigue on a weekly basis. Sunday will be no exception.
Here are the top storylines for this Week 9 matchup.
What’s the identity this week?
AP Photo/Nell Redmond
The Panthers have had a rough go at trying to find themselves on offense over the past month or so. After all, that’s what happens when you lose the star player that unit revolves around.
But what’ll happen if they’re without their starting quarterback as well? Carolina may have to leave both Christian McCaffrey and Sam Darnold in their civilians as they try to leap back over the .500 mark.
McCaffrey, who has missed the last five games due to a hamstring strain, has a shot of playing after being designated to return from the injured reserve. While Darnold, who is also dealing with a right shoulder issue, has yet to be cleared from concussion protocol as we move into the weekend.
Joe Brady’s offense did finally find a bit of traction in last week’s win, grinding out the Atlanta Falcons for 203 rushing yards on 47 carries. But can they really expect that to work two weeks in a row, especially against a New England Patriots defense, without Darnold and/or McCaffrey?
Gilly and Billy
AP Photo/Elise Amendola
That Patriots defense, of course, is masterminded by one Bill Belichick. And a man who was apart of that machine for the better part of the last five seasons is now suddenly on the opposing sideline.
And that would be one Stephon Gilmore, who achieved his greatest NFL successes under the six-time Super Bowl champion coach. The now 31-year-old cornerback reeled in two First-team All-Pro distinctions, four Pro Bowl selections, the 2019 AP Defensive Player of the Year honors and, oh, a Super Bowl ring over his four seasons in New England.
Belichick the coach may have loved him some Gilly, but Belichick the general manager would move on from his lockdown defender back on…