PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the first of five key matchups this week in advance of the Packers' Week Two game against the Panthers at Carolina Sunday.
Panthers WR Steve Smith vs. Packers cornerbacks
Smith, who looked like a man against boys matched up against Arizona's baby-faced CB corps in Carolina's season opener, figures to face a much greater challenge this Sunday, even though Green Bay's top-grade corners were definitely off their game in the season opener against the Saints.
Drew Brees carved up the Packers' pass defense to the tune of 396 yards, converting 9-of-14 third-down opportunities. RCB Tramon Williams, who was flawless much of last season, had an uncharacteristic breakdown on Robert Meachem's 31-yard TD catch and injured his shoulder (check status). If he is unable to play, more pressure to contain Smith will be put on Sam Shields, Charles Woodson and possibly Pat Lee.
Shields picked up in the opener where he left off in training camp and preseason with a very inconsistent effort. Woodson was equally lackluster and was obviously frustrated, as evidenced by the punches he threw at Saints TE David Thomas, which are likely to result in a league fine.
Smith caught eight of the 11 passes thrown to him by rookie QB Cam Newton for 178 yards (22.3 ypc) and a pair of scores for 77 and 26 yards. Undersized but fearless, Smith battles for his catches as hard as any receiver in the league and has always had a knack for coming up with big plays. After the Panthers almost pulled off an upset in the desert, Smith raved about Newton, with whom it appears he has quickly developed a strong rapport.