Life With And Without Luke

In “The Numbers Say” SQ will look at a hot topic in the NFL and dive behind some of the key numbers, both good and bad, that have contributed to the current situation in which a player or team find themselves.


The mood in Carolina was not that great when All-world linebacker Luke Kuechly was knocked out of Week 1 just 32 snaps into the season. In a fantastic twist, the Panthers have actually been playing outstanding with a 4-0 start, and with Atlanta’s loss, now sit in first place in the NFC South.

Perhaps most comforting, is that despite losing arguably the team’s top player, the defense has played well through the first four games of the season.

A crunch of the numbers says that while the Panthers are playing at an elite level, the return of Kuechly cannot come soon enough.

23.2

Of the four teams Carolina has played (Jacksonville, New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Houston) 23.2 represents the average of where the teams rank in points per game. Clearly, the best way to keep the defense in shape while the star player is gone is to play offenses that are not that good to begin with.

24

In the absence of Kuechly the biggest star has been #24 cornerback Josh Norman. The former sixth-round pick from Coastal Carolina is off to an outstanding start, ranked the number one cornerback by Pro Football Focus. Despite Norman's best efforts, the Panthers have not been stellar against the pass, with the team ranked…

16

Although the Panthers have one of the better defenses in the league, and Norman is one of the better corners in the league, the Panthers currently sit in the middle of the pack when it comes to defending the pass. That number could potentially worsen in the coming weeks because...

4, 4, 3

The Panthers next four games are against Seattle, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Green Bay. All four finished last season in the Top 10 in points per game. Three of those teams--Seattle, Indianapolis, and Green Bay--had their respective starting quarterbacks finish the Top 10 in QBR.

In fairness, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis have not had the win loss records they had last season. Still, the Eagles have won their last two, Andrew Luck appears set to return soon, and two of Seattle’s losses have been to undefeated Green Bay and Cincinnati. All three could be due for a breakout.

84.1.

Although Kuechly has not played a full regular season game, he earned a coverage score of 84.1 which ranks him 6th amongst linebackers. Yes, the sample size is small, but it echoes what many have said about Kuechly being outstanding in coverage.
Against some of the better offenses, and specifically the better passing games, Kuechly’s coverage ability will be critical in the coming weeks.

92.0

For the Panthers concerns with the passing defense, there are very few concerns about the run defense. The unit is surrendering just 92.0 yards per game, good for 6th in the league.

Unsurprisingly, Kuechly is also tremendous against the run. Specifically his tackling and range skills are some of the best in the NFL. In theory, Kuechly’s return should make the Panthers run defense better over this stretch. That will be important because…

2

Two teams (Seattle and Green Bay) have a rushing attack that ranks in the Top 10.
Through four games, the Panthers defense has been exceptional, but it is truly going to be tested with some of the better offenses coming up. The good news is that since Kuechly is so stout against the run and athletic in coverage, the Panthers defense should be able to at least contain some of the better offensive teams coming up. He makes a great run defense elite, and solidifies an already elite pass defense.

Upcoming Games

Sep 19th, 1:00 PM

Cincinnati +5.5 -118

Chicago -5.5 -118

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Sep 19th, 1:00 PM

Buffalo -3 -118

Miami +3 -118

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Sep 19th, 1:00 PM

Houston +13 -111

Cleveland -13 -111

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Sep 19th, 1:00 PM

New England -4.5 -111

NY Jets +4.5 -111

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Sep 19th, 1:00 PM

Denver -2.5 -105

Jacksonville +2.5 -105

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Sep 19th, 1:00 PM

San Francisco -5.5 -111

Philadelphia +5.5 -111

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Sep 19th, 1:00 PM

LA Rams +1 -105

Indianapolis -1 -105

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Sep 19th, 1:00 PM

Las Vegas +6 -111

Pittsburgh -6 -111

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Sep 19th, 1:00 PM

New Orleans -3 +100

Carolina +3 +100

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Sep 19th, 4:05 PM

Minnesota +1.5 -111

Arizona -1.5 -111

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Sep 19th, 4:05 PM

Atlanta +7 -111

Tampa Bay -7 -111

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Sep 19th, 4:25 PM

Tennessee +4.5 -105

Seattle -4.5 -105

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Sep 19th, 4:25 PM

Dallas +1 -111

LA Chargers -1 -111

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Sep 19th, 8:20 PM

Kansas City -1 -111

Baltimore +1 -111

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Sep 20th, 8:15 PM

Detroit +7 -111

Green Bay -7 -111

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Sep 23rd, 8:20 PM

Carolina -4.5 -110

Houston +4.5 -110

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Sep 26th, 1:00 PM

Indianapolis +3 -115

Tennessee -3 -115

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Sep 26th, 1:00 PM

LA Chargers +7.5 -107

Kansas City -7.5 -107

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Sep 26th, 1:00 PM

Washington +7 -102

Buffalo -7 -102

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Sep 26th, 1:00 PM

Chicago +8.5 -107

Cleveland -8.5 -107

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Sep 26th, 1:00 PM

Atlanta +2.5 -107

NY Giants -2.5 -107

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Sep 26th, 1:00 PM

Cincinnati +6.5 -107

Pittsburgh -6.5 -107

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Sep 26th, 1:00 PM

Baltimore -7.5 -110

Detroit +7.5 -110

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Sep 26th, 1:00 PM

New Orleans -0.5 -110

New England +0.5 -110

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Sep 26th, 1:00 PM

Arizona -6 -110

Jacksonville +6 -110

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Sep 26th, 4:05 PM

Miami +1 -107

Las Vegas -1 -107

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Sep 26th, 4:05 PM

NY Jets +7.5 -107

Denver -7.5 -107

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Sep 26th, 4:25 PM

Tampa Bay +2.5 -110

LA Rams -2.5 -110

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Sep 26th, 4:25 PM

Seattle -2.5 -107

Minnesota +2.5 -107

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Sep 26th, 8:20 PM

Green Bay +3 -107

San Francisco -3 -107

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