When the Texans have the ball…
-- It's imperative, no matter how the offensive line may or may not be configured, to get helmets to the second level. If Panthers LB Luke Kuechly plays, he cannot run free to the football. He can improvise, to a degree, and be dangerous doing so. He'll run underneath blocks and use his quickness to get back to the ball. The offensive line must get a hat on him at all times in the run game.
-- Furthermore, he's such a smart, athletic linebacker that he's a demon in underneath pass coverage. He plays angles extremely well and can run with interior receivers and backs all over the field.
-- Protection will be better this week, in large part because there is no Justin Houston on the other side. Don't get me wrong, the Panthers can get after the quarterback, but they don't have a guy like Houston that can get in the Texans' mess as often as he could.
-- Keep the tight ends involved, even if there are only two of them. With four receivers making catches on Sunday, the Panthers need to be concerned with the Texans' perimeter threats, which could allow the tight ends to get matched up on rookie Shaq Thompson or Thomas Davis. Those two are wonderful athletes, but I still like seeing Thompson in coverage and not hunting ball carriers.
-- Finally, Ryan Mallett has to just let it go. Quickly. That's exactly what he did v. Kansas City and I'm sure the Panthers will give him a few different looks to test him. However, if he can get his confidence early, get into a rhythm/up tempo early, then the offense will be quite alright.
When the Panthers have the ball…
-- Know that Cam Newton is a running threat on every snap and then when he runs it, make him pay for it. Not advocating cheap or dirty hits, but physical/gang tackles to wear him down as the game goes on.
-- The Panthers will read option the Texans to death if they allow it. The defense must mix up the looks it gives Cam so that he's not pulling the ball from the belly of the running back and running free down the field. Chiefs CB Alex Smith didn't pile up huge yardage on some option plays, but he did just enough to pick up key first downs the Texans couldn't afford to allow.
-- Tackle in space. Self explanatory, no?
-- Find Greg Olsen on every play. Panthers OC Mike Shula does a fine job of moving Olsen around the formation and using him in a number of different capacities. It's key to find him on every play and ensure that he's covered on every play. Make the Panthers wide outs, minus Kelvin Benjamin, beat the Texans.
-- The one last thing I'll mention is punt coverage. Panther PR Ted Ginn Jr. is electric in the open field and last week, covering punts was a major disappointment. The Chiefs averaged 16 yards per return last week and that must stop on the spot. Ginn can turn one and two yard openings into 80 yard sprints to the house.
It's time to get back to playing turnover free, physical D, Texans football. Don't care how they pull it out, but here's hoping the Texans dominate the business trip and get back to .500 with a win on Sunday.