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Keys to the game: Packers travel to Carolina to face Newton, Panthers

James Starks is going to start seeing more playing time, resulting in a better Packers offense.
James Starks is going to start seeing more playing time, resulting in a better Packers offense.

1. Rattle and confuse Cam Newton

The Cardinals were able to sack quarterback Cam Newton four times last Sunday but allowed him far too much time in the pocket, leading to 422 yards through the air. Dom Capers is sure to make things difficult for the rookie making his home debut. The Packers played their base defense just one time last Thursday, and hopefully the Packers will mix alignments up to confuse Newton. The rookie could be in for a long day of confusion and pass rushers.

2. Time for Clay to shine

Matthews was about a step and half away from two sacks last Thursday night, but Sunday afternoon should yield major results for last year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year runner-up. With right tackle Jeff Otah sidelined with a concussion, the Panthers will turn to undrafted free agent Byron Bell. Yes, I also think Matthews is licking his chops with that news. Obviously Matthews will go a long way toward slowing down Newton.

3. Stop the run

Since no one really expects Newton to put up his Week 1 numbers, the offense will have to turn to their "thunder and lightning" combo of Jonathon Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Last week the Packers held the pass-happy Saints to 81 yards on 21 carries, and a similar performance Sunday would likely result in good news for the Packers. Williams and Stewart will have to open up the offense to allow more room for Newton to work through the air, so cutting the offense off at the head would be key.

4. Start transitioning to James Starks

Late Friday night the Journal-Sentinel came out with a report that running backs coach Jerry Fontenot believes James Starks is a better pass blocker than Ryan Grant. What this means, essentially, is that Starks is going to start seeing more than half the carries in the offense. Mike McCarthy admitted he didn't get Starks the ball enough last week, and it's easy to see that the Packers' offense runs smoother with Starks running. Look for that Sunday.

5. Find Jermichael Finley early and often

Inside linebacker Jon Beason tore his Achilles' last week in the loss to the Cardinals and, more than anything, this hurts the defense in their pass defense. Jermichael Finley wasn't able to truly spread his wings against New Orleans, but the middle of the field should be wide open for him most of the day. Finley is good for two or three "wow" performances, and Sunday could be No. 1 on the year.


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