The big news around Charlotte a week ago was the 38-0 thrashing the Carolina Panthers dealt to the hapless New York Giants, but don’t let lofty scores and stats fool you into a false sense of security.
Yes, the Panthers are feeling the heat and so is Head Coach Ron Rivera. Certainly, a blowout win was just what this team needed, but it came at the expense of a Giants team riddled with injuries on both sides of the ball and especially having a porous offensive line.
Last week, Eli Manning looked like a shell-shocked 12 yr-old thrown to the lions…or to the Panthers, in his case.
The Panthers have lots going for them this week when they travel to University of Phoenix stadium to face another struggling team in the Arizona Cardinals.
Both squads have losing records – and both squads are only a few plays away from being either unbeaten or only having a single loss. The Panthers have the bye week here to heal their own wounded and extra time to game plan for Arizona.
For the Cardinals’ part, they look to make some shifts in the lineup and possibly in the backfield as they try and “work around” the problems they have on the offensive line. The downside for Cardinals fans is that the interior defensive line was exactly what Panthers’ GM David Gettleman fortified in April’s draft.
I think scoring is going to be difficult for both offenses as the Arizona Cardinals have a very good defense themselves and have quite a dangerous pair of young defensive backs from LSU – CB Patrick Peterson and S Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu has shed his party-guy, “Honey Badger” image and has become as pleasant a surprise for the Cardinals as they could possibly have expected. Mathieu and Peterson both are very cagey players that can bait enemy QBs into a false sense of security, hang back, wait, and as soon as the QB starts his throwing motion, they spring the trap.
Patrick Peterson had 2 interceptions last week and the Cards defense is known to be real. Just ask the New England Patriots, who got embarrassed by them at home early last season in atypical fashion. The Arizona defense has only gotten better and they traded Kevin Kolb, who gets injured just THINKING about going to practice, for a solid veteran in Carson Palmer. Add in top-3 WR Larry Fitzgerald and young speedster Michael Floyd on the other side (with a year’s experience now under his belt) and they aren’t an offense to be taken lightly.
If the defensive line can’t generate pressure by themselves against this Arizona team, it could be a long night in the desert for the Panthers. I do think both defenses will keep their teams in the game pretty much throughout, but the keys to victory are a little different:
Carolina needs to hang onto the ball and keep the Cards on a long field. I don’t think they can sustain long drives on a regular basis against the Carolina defense.
For the Cardinals to win, they need to find SOME sort of running game…even if they have to “manufacture” gains on the ground, however they do it, it needs to be done. They cannot abandon the running game and let those Carolina defenders tee off on Palmer, who is not the most mobile or evasive quarterback in the NFL, and can be rattled into throwing picks.
Oddly enough, Cam Newton has one of the NFL’s best QB ratings in the 4th quarter, but overall they haven’t done well with a lead going into the 4th quarter, as the Buffalo game showed. Cam needs targets other than Steve Smith and Greg Olson, and in the early going it looks as if Ted Ginn, Jr. COULD finally be hitting his stride a bit now entering his 7th NFL campaign.
I won’t be choosing a winner and final score this early – last week taught me not to do that anymore – but I do think the first team to 17 points takes this one.