Panthers vs. Cardinals: What to Watch For

By Rich Welch
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Week 5 features a matchup of similar teams looking to get on the right track. The Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals both have talented but flawed rosters, with some units brimming with production and depth and others that seem weak and depleted.

Both teams have a star wide receiver who has seemingly been there forever, and who has still thrived despite their respective teams getting them no help after their greatest partner departed. Both teams have a defensive line tandem that strikes fear into the hearts of opponents, even if each team runs a different style of defense.

Both teams are looking for a win this week, and who comes out with a victory will depend upon which side wins the key matchups:

Deep and Outside Steve Smith is always a threat to break out, but he will have a tough matchup this week against All-Pro Patrick Peterson. Peterson has established himself as one of the league’s premier corners, posting two clutch interception last week.

Smith will have trouble finding space against Peterson, but if he can win one-on-one a few times, that will take a lot of pressure off of Cam Newton to make a play. Ted Ginn Jr. has also emerged as a great deep threat, and it will be up to Rashad Johnson to make sure Ginn and Smith don’t make big plays over the top.

Inside Grind — The Cardinals have two beasts on the defensive line in Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, and they will look to bring heavy pressure on Newton on Sunday. Both players excel as pass rushers, and it is important for the Panthers to keep them away from Newton, but it is their run defense that will have the greatest impact.

The Panthers are third in the league in rushing, and will look to continue that trend with DeAngelo Williams, mixed with a few designed runs from Newton. Dockett and Campbell will line up all over the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense, and it will be up to Ryan Kalil and Jordan Gross to open up lanes in the running game and make the offense hum.

Fitz and the Bandaged — Larry Fitzgerald has always been a beast, but the Cardinals haven’t given him much help since Anquan Boldin left besides Michael Floyd, who hasn’t really rounded into form yet. The Panthers’ secondary is hurting and vulnerable with Quintin Mikell and D.J. Moore out, but they will at least get starting corner Josh Thomas back from a concussion.

The Panthers will most likely double-team Fitzgerald all game, leaving the rest of the Panthers defensive backs to match up one-on-one. If young players like Josh Norman and Robert Lester can win one-on-one matchups against the Cardinals receivers, then the Panthers’ defense will have a fantastic day.

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