The lowdown on the Green Bay Packers' next opponent from a beat writer who covers that team.
The Green Bay Packers were given new life this week after franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers was medically cleared to return to the starting lineup when the team travels to Charlette this weekend to take on the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers are one of the few teams in the league with a longer injury report than the Packers, but that hasn't seemed to diminish their play of the field at all. To get a better feel for what kind of team the Packers will be facing Sunday, we spoke with Joe Person, who covers the Panthers for The Charlotte Observer. You can find part of our exchange below and also in the video above.
1. Cam Newton has been on the injury report with a right shoulder injury. How has this affected his game, if at all?
This stems from Newton's shoulder surgery in March. The Panthers limited his practice snaps early in the season, but that hasn't been the case lately. I think the Panthers keep Newton on the injury report as a procedural matter. But it has not affected his throwing or running ability and I wouldn't expect to it Sunday against the Packers.
2. How has former Packers pass rusher Julius Peppers looked recently? He seemed to start the season on fire.
Peppers had a pair of two-sack games during the first four weeks, and none since. But he's still been effective. Peppers had a sack last week vs. Case Keenum and probably should have been credited with a second one. The Panthers have been careful with his snap counts, even after Peppers moved into the starting lineup two weeks ago when Charles Johnson was suspended for PEDs. Peppers and Aaron Rodgers know each other so well, it will be interesting to watch them compete Sunday.
3. How has the vibe around this Panthers team been? Will it be a playoff atmosphere on Sunday?
The Panthers are an experienced, confident group, one that has viewed itself as a playoff team all season. While the cornerbacks are still young, the defensive front seven is championship-caliber. The offense has been more hit or miss, and goes as Cam Newton goes. Last week's game vs. Minnesota felt like a playoff atmosphere in Bank of America Stadium, and this week will be no different for the return of Rodgers.