Arizona Cardinals: 5 questions about the Carolina Panthers
By Scott Allen
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers 4:40 p.m. Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina
This week I had a chance to do a question and answer session with Chris Schafer, editor of Catcrave.com, FanSided’s Carolina Panthers fan site. This week the Arizona Cardinals prepare to face the Panthers in Charlotte in the NFC Championship game. The winner will face the winner of the AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos.
We are fairly certain that Cam Newton is going to win the MVP for the 2015 season, beating out Arizona’s Carson Palmer. What makes Newton so special and what has changed in his game from his first several seasons?
"Newton has become a true leader this season, making his teammates around him better. Starting back with his car accident last season, that was not as bad as it could have potentially been, it changed Cam. He saw that this opportunity, playing football, could be taken away from him at any time in an instant. He did not want that to happen. Then when Kelvin Benjamin went down in training camp with a torn ACL, there all of the sudden that outside of Greg Olsen, Cam did not have a go to wide receiver. So he became a leader by stepping up and creating the guys around him better. There is not another quarterback in the league that could take this group of receivers and do what Cam has done this season."
The Panthers defense looked absolutely brilliant in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks but then let them back in the game in the second half, albeit too late for them. We’ve seen the Panthers allow some teams to make comebacks on them this season. Why is that?
"It seems that sometimes the Panthers decide to stay in the locker room at halftime and become conservative in the second half. At times they have been playing to protect the lead, not to continue to put pressure on the opposing team and play Panthers’ football for the entire game. But, in each case someone, or multiple guys step up. This is the NFC Championship Game and the leaders on the defense, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, are not going to let that same thing happen this coming Sunday night. Look for the Panthers to play a complete game."
Will the loss of Jared Allen hurt at all or is this something the Panthers can handle without issue? In the same token, how is Greg Olsen after injuring his shoulder on Sunday?
"Jared Allen has not been ruled out, yet, so there still is the possibility he could play and really, unless there is the chance he hurts the team by playing, or if he hurts his long term health by playing, there is a chance he is out there Sunday. His goal is to get to the Super Bowl and if this is in fact his last season, he is going to put everything on the table to make it happen. Allen clearly has expressed how special this group is, and he wants to be on the field. If he is not able to though, it will be the same thing that has happened all year when someone gets injured, the Panthers have had a next man step up and “Keep Pounding”.Regarding Olsen, he came back in and played after being injured, which says a lot with the Panthers having a big lead still. This was a good sign during the game and fans should not be worried about his status for this weekend. With both of these guys though, it is the NFC Championship Game, a rare occurrence for most teams. Unless playing hampers health, or the team, guys want to be on the field."
What are your keys to victory for the Panthers on Sunday against the Cardinals?
"Establishing the running game first. Jonathan Stewart clearly showed his was back to his top form and healthy, even though he did tweak his foot again. But he will be ready this week. Stewart establishing the run lets Cam look downfield and also allows for the read option to become a possibility.Second, shutting down Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald will likely be guarded by Josh Norman, who has shut down pretty much everyone he has faced this season."
Finally, what is your prediction for the game and score?
"The Panthers will be making plans to fly to the west coast for the game in two weeks. Panthers 34, Cardinals 21."