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Five things to watch vs. Indianapolis: Looking to build on the first win

Bryce Young

CHARLOTTE – The Panthers are back in Bank of America Stadium this weekend for the second of two straight home matchups.

Carolina (1-6, 0-2 NFC South) takes on the the Indianapolis Colts (3-5, 2-2 AFC South) on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, looking to add to last week's first win of the season over Houston. 

Kickoff is set for 4:05 p.m. in Charlotte. Fans can check out more information on how to watch here.

Here are five things to check out during the game.

Bryce Young looks for second win vs. Colts defense

Rookie quarterback Bryce Young has an opportunity to build off an efficient performance in the Panthers' first win last week – especially against a Colts secondary depleted by injuries and giving up points.

Indianapolis brings the NFL's worst scoring defense to Charlotte this weekend, allowing opponents 28.6 points per game. The defense also struggles against the pass, ranked 25th in passing net yards per game (247.3).

Even though he's coming off the highs of a win, Young emphasized how head coach Frank Reich has guided the team through keeping the same mentality.  

"That's something we've talked about every week; we're talking about making sure we're the same on Mondays, good or bad, with the results," Young said. "Whenever we're watching the film back, it's about corrections and seeing what we can do better, then seeing three stuff that we do well and how we can build off of it.

"I'm just finding ways to get better. Coach Reich talks about it all the time, just being obsessed with getting better. And, of course, you'd always like to do that after a win. But as far as the process, what we do, it looks the same."

Facing Jonathan Taylor, Zack Moss

On defense, the Panthers will be tasked to show improvement against the run, as the Colts boast a top-10 rushing offense.

Averaging 129.0 rushing yards per game (ninth in the NFL) and 4.5 rushing yards per attempt (sixth in the NFL), Indianapolis' eighth-ranked total offense (362.4 yards per game) emphasizes the run behind Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss.

Taylor's impact has grown since he returned to the field in October, putting up a season-high 95 yards on 12 attempts against New Orleans. He'd taken 18 carries 75 yards against the Browns the week before after slowly working back into the offense amid contract talks and a lingering ankle injury.

Moss has run for 589 yards on 125 attempts, averaging 4.7 yards per carry with five touchdowns.

The Panthers have given up an average of 139.4 rushing yards per game and are ranked 29th in the league.

"We've got to be ready," defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero said. "They're big backs. They're hard to tackle. Their O-line does a great job working together. They have a good scheme, not overly complex, but execution is at a high, high level."

Bringing up outside linebackers

The Panthers will need pass-rushing help against Indianapolis, as injuries have hit their group of outside linebackers.

With Yetur Gross-Matos on injured reserve and Justin Houston ruled out with a hamstring injury, Carolina will be looking for extra production behind star edge rusher Brian Burns.

Reich said that would include elevating rookie Eku Leota (who was up for last week's win over the Texans) from the practice squad along with newcomer Luiji Vilain, as well as leaning on rookie DJ Johnson more in the rotation.

The good news for the Panthers is Burns, who has been working through an elbow injury since last week's practice before Houston, practiced fully on Friday and received no injury designation for Sunday.

"I think we're ready," Reich said. "I mean, nothing popped up this week as a surprise. So I think we've had a good week. I think the guys are stepping in. And getting Luiji here, he's had a good week. The rotation – DJ has been doing a good job. Really been excited about DJ's continued progress. … I feel good about that. I feel those outside linebackers will be ready to go."

Chuba Hubbard

Chuba Hubbard earns another start

Reich announced that Chuba Hubbard earned a second start at running back this week, though the Panthers will retain a committee approach to the rushing rotation, along with Miles Sanders and Raheem Blackshear.

Though the Panthers signed Sanders to be more of a factor on the offense than he has been recently, Reich said their confidence in him has remained strong. They're going with Hubbard because he's performing the best lately. That could ebb and flow.

"I have a lot of confidence in Miles," Reich said. "Sometimes, at running back I've seen this happen before, it kind of goes (where) somebody gets the hot hand. Like Chubes has a hot hand a little bit, and the game flow goes a certain way for a few games. We've got a lot of football left, have a lot of faith and confidence in Miles."

Reich faces former team

Reich will face the team he coached previously, the Colts, for the first time since they parted ways with him last season.

It hasn't added any level of bitterness for the Panthers' head coach, but he said it is still a new perspective.

"For some people, when that happens, it means more in a vengeful way; I don't look at it like that," Reich said. "I've never looked at it … Motivated, yes. Highly motivated, yes. But it's more – yeah, it's just a different perspective. Both can be true.

"It's just another game, but you understand it's a different dynamic. I think both of those things can be true."

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Thursday.

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