Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers: Preview, Prediction
The receivers is where the Cardinals will make their money. While the Panthers secondary does in fact have All Pro Josh Norman and NFL interception leader Kurt Coleman, the Panthers pass defense only ranks 11th. The Panthers defense tense to play more conservative as the game goes on which allows teams to make comebacks. However, I don’t expect the Cardinals to play from behind any time if it all during the game. The receivers, led by playoff beast Larry Fitzgerald, need to be aggressive and allow Carson Palmer to make plays.
The biggest questions on defense will be containing Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. If the Cardinals can limit the play making ability of these two, they’ll have essentially stifled the Panthers entire offense. The Cardinals defensive line will need to put pressure on Newton but they can absolutely not let him get outside the pocket. When scrambling, Newton leads the NFL touchdowns with 19. The defense needs to force Newton to beat them with his arm and not his legs.
The Cardinals have made it clear that the key to covering All Pro tight end Greg Olsen is safety/pseudo linebacker Deone Bucannon. Bucannon has the tackling skills of a linebacker and coverage skills of a safety. “Drone” as he is known by the fans, is the a major reason for the Cardinals being able to cover tight ends this season, and will make Olsen every yards.
Aside from Cam Newton, Greg Olsen and Johnathan Stewart, the Panthers don’t have very many weapons on offense. The Cardinals have seen Ted Ginn Jr. play in practice from last year and will know how to cover him. Ginn is the Panthers leading receiver, and if Cardinals can cover him it will make things that much harder for Newton.
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While the signs point to the Panthers winning, the Cardinals are a more complete team. Carson Palmer will be much more loose and I expect this to result in him making much better decisions. Larry Fitzgerald is hungry for a ring and is looking to demoralize the Panthers defense. While it is a tough task, the offense should be able to move the ball this time around, and expect Bruce Arians to pull out many things from under his sleeve. The defense knows what it needs to do to prevent Cam Newton and the rest of the Panthers offense from making plays. This is a team of destiny, and especially after last season’s early post season exit, the Cardinals will do everything they can to win this game. That being said, the Cardinals will return to their first Super Bowl in 7 years. Cardinals 30 Panthers 27