The Carolina Panthers welcome in a rare NFC North foe this weekend, as the Green Bay Packers come to town for a Christmas Eve showdown.
The 1:00 pm (EST) kickoff will pit the Panthers (2-12), coming off their second win on the season, a 9-6 win over divisional rivals Atlanta Falcons, against the Packers (6-8), who are looking to bounce back after two-straight losses.
Carolina is 6-11 all time versus Green Bay. Learn more about the series history here.
Here's what to know about them.
Dirty Yards Get the Yards
The Packers have been missing Christian Watson the past two weeks, taking away much of their deep threat ability. Without that facet of the offense, quarterback Jordan Love and company have instead turned to an intermediate passing game that is dependent on hard fought yards after the catch, turning short gains into those explosive plays.
Week-to-week, the face of those dirty yards can change, but in recent weeks, it has become a pair of rookies that are the face of the effort. Receiver Dontayvion Wicks and tight end Tucker Kraft, both stepping up in the face of injuries to their respective teammates (Watson for Wicks, and Luke Musgrave for Kraft) have proven willing to carry defenders, hurdle defenders and push defenders out of the way when necessary.
Of Wicks' 491 receiving yards thus far this season, 37% have come after the catch. For Kraft, the big-bodied rookie tight end, he's put up a whopping 61% of his 216 yards have come after the catch. In the case of both pass-catchers, those yards after the catch are also coming after contact.
The Packers have a dynamic joystick in rookie receiver Jayden Reed. He's a playmaker who just needs the ball in his hands and he can take it from there. So, the Packers have let him do just that, employing his speed and ability to make the right read at the edge on jet sweeps, curl sweeps and end-arounds.
These quasi run-calls for Reed were primarily employed while running back Aaron Jones was recovering from a MCL injury. It provided a way to keep the Packers stretch ground game going, since AJ Dillon is more of a downhill runner. With Jones set to make his second start since the injury on Sunday, the need for Reed in this way isn't as great. But his talent still makes him a threat for coach Matt LaFleur to pull out the sweep options at any time.
Reed did suffer a toe injury on Sunday versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though, which could provide a blow to an already thin Packers receiving unit.
From Valentine, with Love
Jordan Love is the future on offense, and Carrington Valentine is that name to know on the defense. The rookie seventh-round corner has seen ample playing time this season, with Jaire Alexander dealing with a back, then shoulder injury, Eric Stokes spending much of the season on Injured Reserve, and Rasul Douglas being traded.
Valentine has 36 tackles, eight pass breakups and a fumble recovery, backed by a tenaciousness that refuses to be intimidated by the No. 1 receivers he's faced week-to-week in all 14 games this season.