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Carolina Panthers

What to watch: Panthers at Jets


Throughout the offseason, the Panthers have worked to further establish their homefield advantage.

Sunday night, they hope to negate homefield advantage – in the nation's largest media market.

"We've got to show we can handle that environment, and it's going to be a tough environment because it's New York and it's always loud there," said tight end Gary Barnidge, whose Panthers will travel to MetLife Stadium to take on the Jets in nationally televised affair (8 p.m., NBC).

"It's a chance to show what we've been working toward."

The Panthers, who split their two preseason games played at Bank of America Stadium, haven't won a preseason road game since 2007, when they beat the Giants in the New York teams' former home. Carolina did, however, win three of its final four road games last season.

The Panthers starters are likely to play into the second half, and they'll face a Jets team hungry for some success after totaling just nine points in a pair of losses to open the preseason.

"This is a great challenge for us," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "This is a good program - two of the last three years the Jets went to the AFC Championship Game.

"I'm excited about the fact that we are going to be on the big stage. Sunday night, major prime-time game for us in the biggest city in the United States. We're pretty excited about the opportunity."

Here's a look at what the Panthers need to do to take advantage of the opportunity – and to position themselves for the fast approaching regular season.

SECONDS, PLEASE: The Panthers blew out to a 17-0 lead against the Miami Dolphins last week, then had to hold on for dear life to win by a 23-17 count.

Sunday, unlike the last game, the starters likely will have a chance to change that trend, assuming they do see the field after halftime.

"We started strong. Now we need to come out in the second half and do the same thing," wide receiver Brandon LaFell said. "That's a problem we had last year, something that we didn't do."

The Panthers outscored opponents 240-196 in the first half of games last season, but opponents outscored them 233-166 after halftime. That pattern has to be a thing of the past come the regular season, and there's no better time than the present to turn it around.

SECONDARY CONCERN: LaFell, who could be especially busy with Steve Smith out of action with a foot infection, knows it won't be easy to get the passing game going in the first place against the Jets secondary.

"They're real tough," LaFell said. (Darrelle) Revis is one of the best players in the league, and with (Antonio) Cromartie they have one of the best one-two punches in the league. Then you add Yeremiah Bell and my college teammate, LaRon Landry (at the safety spots)."

The Jets were tied for the second-fewest touchdown passes (15) allowed last season and the fifth-fewest passing yards (201.0).

The Panthers might look to first unleash their potent rushing attack in an attempt to loosen up the pass defense.

"We're facing a good defense, so we've got to come out as an offense and show what we've got," LaFell said. "We've got to prove we can compete with them."




WELCOME BACK: Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis will see his first action of the preseason. It should be exciting to see where he is in his latest comeback.

Last season, coming off two knee surgeries in less than a year, Davis looked good in his similarly anticipated preseason debut and carried that over to the regular season, only to injure his knee again in Week 2.

So now, he's battling back from his third knee surgery in less than two years – nothing short of remarkable.

ROUGH CUTS: After the game, the Panthers will have less than 24 hours to trim the 90-man roster down to 75, so it's an especially big game for players on the bubble.

Survive this cut, and those still vying for spots on the 53-man roster should get an extended opportunity to show their stuff when the Panthers wrap up the preseason schedule Thursday at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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