4 players to watch: Bears-Panthers

Carolina's quarterback rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown on eight carries against New England on October 1 and 71 yards and a score on 11 attempts against the Eagles last week.

The 4-2 Carolina Panthers will be up against a familiar face when they take on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday.

After a slow start this season while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) threw six touchdowns and one interception in victories over the Panthers and Lions before throwing three picks in a loss to the Eagles on October 12. Still, this is a vital game was Carolina looks to avoid dropping two straight amid more Cam Newton media drama. Chicago holds a 5-4 edge but lost the most recent matchup in 2014 as the Panthers held on for a 31-24 victory.

Thus one would think fortune favors the Panthers today.

Veteran defensive end Julius Peppers leads Carolina with 6.5 sacks. But prior to a three-pick dud against the Eagles on Thursday Night Football last week, he threw six touchdowns and one interception in road victories over the Patriots and Eagles.

Carolina's front seven has flourished this season at getting to the quarterback, an area where the 2016 squad thrived as well.

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Jackson scored on a 75-yard fumble return and a 76-yard interception return during the first half.

Sunday against Chicago, an opponent that depends heavily on its rushing attack with rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky adjusting to the playbook and successful complementary backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, the game may be decided on the ground. Carolina has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season but will be without star middle linebacker Luke Kuechly due to a concussion.

Bears special teams allowed allowed a touchdown on a kickoff return (albeit a bit of a fluke) and a punt return against the Ravens to drop to last place in the league in both punt returns (15.6 yards) and kickoff returns (30.8).

Howard has tallied 118 carries for 495 yards and four scores.

Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart already broke the Panthers' all-time leading rushing record this season, but the 10-year veteran is nearing another franchise milestone.

Carolina's defense continues to be ranked among the league's top units after the first six weeks of the regular season.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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