NFL Preview - Carolina (3-8) at Kansas City (1-10)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The game will go on in Kansas City.
The Chiefs and Carolina Panthers will play as scheduled Sunday in the wake of Saturday's tragedy surrounding the team.
Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed himself at the team's training facility, minutes after allegedly killing his girlfriend.
There was speculation that Sunday's game might be postponed, at least for a day, after the events but Kansas City chose to proceed with Sunday's game after the team's six captains informed coach Romeo Crennel that they wanted to play.
"After discussions between the league office, head coach Romeo Crennel and Chiefs team captains, the Chiefs advised the NFL that it will play tomorrow's game vs. the Carolina Panthers at its originally scheduled time," the Chiefs said in a statement.
Crennel, according to police, witnessed Belcher's suicide.
Police believe Belcher shot his girlfriend multiple times after the two had argued at home. Minutes after the first shooting, Belcher drove to the Chiefs' training facility at Arrowhead Stadium and spoke with team personnel, including Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli, before taking his own life with a gunshot.
The Chiefs plan to conduct a moment of silence on Sunday for all victims of domestic violence.
On the field the NFL's new-era poster child and its consensus top rookie of 2011, Cam Newton and his Panthers had found little other than frustration in his sophomore year before a Week 12 defeat of Philadelphia on Monday night.
They'll try to make it a modest two-game streak this Sunday when they head to Arrowhead Stadium to face the similarly struggling Chiefs, who've won just once in 11 games and are one L away from tying the longest skid in a storied franchise history.
Against the Eagles before a national TV audience, Newton threw for 306 yards, ran for 52 more and was involved in four touchdowns -- two pass/two rush -- in a 30-22 victory.
"Winning is huge. It cures all," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. "We've got to continue now. We have to take this momentum we have on a short week into Kansas City."
The offensive explosion was uncharacteristic for the 2012 Panthers, who'd averaged 19.5 points per week before meeting the Eagles and posting their second-best number of the season. Last year, Carolina scored at a 25.4 point- per-game rate.
This week's foe, the Chiefs, have allowed 22 passing touchdowns in 11 games. And Newton, who had five TDs and eight interceptions through seven games, has six TDs and only two picks in the last four -- in which the Panthers are 2-2.
The QB's 20 rushing scores since his 2011 debut are second-best in the league.
"People are throwing different things at him now," Rivera said. "They're trying to throw things that have worked against him at him, and he's learning those things and understanding them."
The same can't be said for the plummeting Chiefs, who've scored just 10.4 points per game over the last seven losses and have allowed 26 or more five times in the last eight. They're last in the league in both turnovers (32) and red-zone points (94) and haven't won at Arrowhead -- typically one of the NFL's best home venues -- since last season.
Kansas City, which lost, 17-9, to Denver last week, hasn't scored a touchdown in nearly three full games.
Running back Jamaal Charles had 107 ground yards against the Broncos and quarterback Brady Quinn was 13-of-25 for 126 yards and one interception.
"This is a result-driven business we're in and when you don't get results, you don't feel good about it," Crennel said. "Everybody is frustrated about losing -- players, coaches, fans, owners, everybody. What we want or what we need is, we need to try to win a game to make us feel better, give us a little confidence and then if you win one, then maybe we can win another one."
A defense that's been gashed for 126.1 rush yards per week may not have to face Carolina's Jonathan Stewart after he sustained a high ankle sprain against the Eagles. His absence would mean a return to the starting unit for DeAngelo Williams for the first time since October.
The Panthers will be without defensive end Ray Edwards, who's out for the rest of the year with a dislocated elbow that came in Monday's game.
The all-time series between the teams is even at two games apiece, with Carolina winning the last two in 2004 (28-17 at Kansas City) and 2008 (34-0 at Carolina). Rivera has never faced the Chiefs and Crennel is 0-1 against the Panthers.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Though Stewart may be absent or at least limited, the Panthers still need to make running the ball a priority to take the pressure off Newton's arm. Carolina is 18th in the league with 108 rush yards per game and they're led as a team by Newton's 446 ground yards.
Kansas City may be a vulnerable target after allowing the aforementioned 126.1 yards on the ground per game through 11 -- including a season-high 201 against Buffalo and more than the average on four other occasions against Cincinnati (189), Tampa Bay (145), Oakland (135) and Baltimore (133).
It's hard to imagine the Chiefs and Crennel being in a good place mentally for this game.
Neither team is what it was even a year or two ago on the field, but the Panthers at least enter on something of an uptick -- a modest 2-2 in four games -- and they still have this game's best player in Newton.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Panthers 24, Chiefs 21
12/02 11:26:15 ET
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