Listen Live

NFL: DEC 24 Packers at Panthers

by Sharon Thorsland

It’s the final road trip of the year for the Panthers, who have yet to win on the road but have a shot against a Jaguars team that has lost four straight. Kick-off is set for 1:00 Sunday. It’s a key game for the 8-7 Jaguars, who need to win to stay atop the AFC South. The Panthers lost last week to the Falcons, but the offense finally came to life and seems to be clicking behind rookie quarterback Bryce Young. “You know, it’s a lot more fun when you’re having success and the ball’s moving and you’re creating explosive plays,” said Young. “We got a taste of it and it’s great, but now we have to make sure that we can try to build on it.”

The Jaguars are having all sorts of issues on offense, starting with turnovers. They’ve got a whopping 28 on the season, that ranks next to last in the league. Third year quarterback Trevor Lawrence has produced 19 of those, but the former Clemson standout has still thrown for over 3700 yards with 19 touchdowns. He’s dealing with a shoulder injury so backup CJ Beathard could see the field Sunday. With top receiver Christian Kirk on IR, Lawrence’s favorite target is now Pro Bowl tight end Evan Engram, he leads the team with 98 catches. Former Falcons All-Pro Calvin Ridley has seven touchdowns. Lawrence’s former Clemson teammate Travis Etienne is the Jaguar’s most potent weapon, he’s picked up nearly 1300 combined rushing and receiving yards and has 10 touchdowns. “He’s explosive,” said Panthers linebacker Brian Burns. “He has a lot of speed, he loves to get to the edge. He’s a big play waiting to happen.” Burns and the Panthers defense gave up too many big plays to the Packers last week, but still rank 5th in the NFL in total yards allowed and fourth in passing yards.

The Jaguars defense is pretty darn good and really aggressive, their 25 turnovers rank 2nd best in the NFL. They’ve got some studs on the front seven, including veteran defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris and outside linebacker Josh Allen,whose 13.5 sacks rank 5th in the league. The Jaguars pass defense has been the weak link, allowing 257 yards per game through the air, that’s 29th in the league. But look out for veteran cornerback Darious Williams, he has a team-leading four interceptions, one of them returned for a score. Safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Andre Cisco have combined for five picks.

This is just the 8th match-up between these teams, the Panthers lead the series 4-3. They’ve won the last three in the rivalry, and feel like they have a good shot at making it four in a row. “We just have to play a complete game,” said defensive tackle Nick Thurman. “It’s an opportunity for us to show that yeah, the year hasn’t been the best, but we’re starting to put it together. We’re starting to see the light.”