Had Cam Newton not had a breakout game in what was his first-ever game, the Packers might've been running into an ambush this week. As it stands, however, Newton's 422 yards passing against the Cardinals is a wake-up call the equivalent of a cold bucket of water in the face.
"He's not going to sneak up on anybody now," Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera said of Newton.
Not only won't Newton sneak up on the Packers, he will literally be the featured player in Sunday's game at Bank of America Stadium. The quarterback on the other side of the field will be none other than Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers, but the TV cameras and the collective eye of the football world will be focused on Newton.
Is Newton for real? Can he play with Rodgers? Those questions provide the storyline for Sunday's game.
For the Packers, it's an important game as they head into an important four-week stretch of schedule. Let's not even mention who the opponents will be in two of those four weeks; let's just focus on the Panthers because, well, the Panthers are going to be really focused on the Packers.
We're talking about a team coming off a 2-14 season that has a new coach, a new way and new hope. We're talking about a team that is considering the possibility that it might have, for the first time in its history, a true face-of-the-franchise player.
Charlotte is waiting to jump on the bandwagon. As star wide receiver Steve Smith said, there's a buzz in Charlotte. What do you think would happen to that buzz should the Panthers upset the Packers? It would become a roar.
So, if you're looking for some drama to help add some spice to a game that didn't appear to have much of it when the schedule was announced last spring, consider what this game means from the Carolina perspective. This is what it means to be the Super Bowl champions. This is what it means to be the target.
Now, here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Panthers.
1. Be ready to play—That's a 73,000-seat stadium and it's the Panthers' home-opener. This will be one of the most hyped games and charged crowds in Carolina football history.
2. Win with offense—It worked against the Saints.
3. Treat him as a runner—When he breaks the line of scrimmage, he's fair game until he slides.
4. Avoid helping them—Smart, mistake-free football is difficult for a young team to overcome.
5. Be physical—That always works. It has a way of leveling an opponents' energy.
6. Pencil-whip 'em—The Packers are a veteran, championship team. Their playbook should be bigger and their grasp of it stronger.
7. Stay in the moment—Don't worry about Week 3. That's for next week.
8. Rush the quarterback—Newton was sacked four times in Arizona.
9. Win special teams—It's one of the three phases of football, the Packers have a budding star return man and it sure makes winning easier when you own the kicking game.
10. Stop Steve Smith—He's the Panthers' home-run threat. He's the guy that makes them go. Additional coverage - Sept. 15