Getting to know the Patriots’ next opponent, the Carolina Panthers, with 10 quick-hit thoughts:
1. They are 5-7 and in third place of the NFC South. They have slim playoff hopes.
2. John Fox is in his eighth season as head coach. Media speculation has him on the hot seat, with former Steelers coach Bill Cowher a top candidate if a change is made.
3. The running game is their strength, ranked third in the NFL in yards per carry (4.8) and yards per game (151.9). DeAngelo Williams (1,022 yards) and Jonathan Stewart (664) are the 1-2 punch.
4. General manager Marty Hurney was the Redskins beat writer for the Washington Times, covering the team in the 1980s. He later joined the Redskins’ public relations department before following Bobby Beathard to San Diego, which sparked his career as a front office executive.
5. Defensive end Julius Peppers leads the team with 8.5 sacks.
6. Middle linebacker Jon Beason, a first-round draft choice in 2007 selected one pick after the Patriots chose Brandon Meriweather, leads the team with 102 tackles.
7. There is uncertainty at quarterback. Veteran Jake Delhomme (8 TDs, 18 INTs) missed Sunday’s win over Tampa with a finger injury, with third-year veteran Matt Moore – who was claimed off waivers by the Panthers in 2007 – stepping in. Veteran A.J. Feeley is the third option.
8. Losing veteran defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu to a season-ending injury in the preseason has contributed to a porous run defense. Opponents average 4.6 yards per carry, ranking Carolina 30th in the NFL.
9. The offensive coordinator is Jeff Davidson, who was a Patriots assistant from 1997-2004. Veteran Ron Meeks, formerly of the Colts, is in his first year as defensive coordinator.
10. Kicker John Kasay, 40, has been with the franchise since its inaugural season in 1995. He is the only player on the roster who has been with the club since that first season.