NFL Week 8 Preview: Panthers vs. Cardinals
The Panthers and Cardinals were the two best teams in the NFC during the 2015 season. Coming into Sunday’s rematch of last season’s NFC title game, both teams will hope to regain their 2015 form as the second half of the season approaches. The 1-5 Panthers come into Sunday off a much-needed bye week that allowed their secondary to get back to full strength. The Cardinals comes into the game at 3-3-1 after a hard-fought overtime game against the Seahawks that ended in a tie. Arizona has begun to pick up momentum over the past few weeks and will present another big challenge for a Carolina squad that desperately needs win number two on the season.
Is this the week Carolina turns it around?
In their last game against the Saints, Cam Newton led the Panthers back from a 21-point deficit to tie the game late in the fourth game. Although they still ended up on the losing end, Newton and the Carolina offense looked as sharp as it has all season totaling over 400 yards of offense. Jonathan Stewart’s return gave them a boost in the running game as he finished with 85 yards and two scores and he provided extra protection in the passing game. They will need to be hitting on all cylinders against an Arizona defense that ranks as the second best in the league. With Arizona coming off a physical, five quarter game in Week 7, Carolina should look to go with their hurry up offense early in the game as well as pound the ball with Stewart and Mike Tolbert. Chandler Jones and Markus Golden have been lethal at pressuring the quarterback for the Cardinals this season, so Carolina’s line has to hold its own in order to give Cam time to find receivers. The Cardinals boast one of the best secondaries in the NFL; therefore Cam should look for opportunities to run if his receivers struggle to get separation downfield. If not, look for playmakers Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu to turn Cam’s mistakes into turnovers.
On defense, the Panthers must find a way to stop Cardinals running back David Johnson. Johnson has been having an All-Pro season so far as a deadly dual threat on the ground and catching out of the backfield. He comes into Sunday second in the NFL in rushing with 681 yards and he’s added another 323 yards in receiving. The Panthers run defense has been its only bright spot on that side of the ball all season and they will need another good showing on Sunday in order to slow Johnson.
Carson Palmer has been up and down all season, but anything seems possible against the Panthers secondary. However, injuries to the Cardinals receiving core may lessen the burden in coverage for Carolina’s corners. Jaron Brown tore his ACL against Seattle and fellow Arizona receiver John Brown is still recovering from a leg injury. This leaves Larry Fitzgerald as the focal point of the Cardinals passing attack. The Panthers d-line should have the advantage going against an offensive line that’s beaten up and fatigued from their last game. If they can get pressure on Palmer, the secondary should be able to get stops since Carson has struggled throwing downfield all season long.
Even after a bye week and time to get healthy, I still can’t put any faith in my Panthers secondary. Should be a close game but Arizona leaves Charlotte with a win and the Panthers can finally give up on their playoff hopes.
Final Score: Cardinals 23-20