Tale Of The Tape: Carolina Panthers At Arizona Cardinals
- QuarterbackThe Panthers are coming off a huge 38-0 win over the Giants prior to their bye week. The win may have saved head coach Ron Rivera’s job. Cam Newton must come through with consistent efforts if the Panthers are going to become a winning team. While there is little doubt about his athletic ability or arm strength, Newton must show he can read defenses and make the proper decisions.The Cardinals struggled through 3 1/2 quarters against the Tampa Bay Bucs, but they were able to take advantage of late opportunities and steal the road win. Carson Palmer is the caretaker of the Cardinals' offense. While he is not able to carry the team on his shoulders, he knows how to take advantage of breaks and find the endzone in the fourth quarter.
- OffenseThe Panthers have the kind of well-rounded offensive talent to dominate opponents, but they rarely play with consistency. DeAngelo Williams runs with power and speed and he is able to take quite a bit of the pressure off of Newton. Steve Smith is still a dangerous receiver who plays with a physical edge even though he is smaller than most of his opponents. Tight end Greg Olsen knows how to find the weak spots in opposing zone defenses.Rashard Mendenhall put on a putrid performance against the Tampa Bay Bucs and may have played himself out of the lineup with his tendency to run out of bounds when the Cardinals want to keep the clock moving. Larry Fitzgerald is a game-breaking receiver who can still defeat double-team coverage. Michael Floyd is an excellent complementary receiver.
- DefenseThe Panthers want to be a physical and intimidating unit. They usually do a better job of showing this when they are at home than they do on the road. The Panthers have one of the best middle linebackers in the league in Luke Kuechly, who has a team-high 29 tackles. Outside linebacker Thomas Davis is right behind with 25 stops, while rampaging defensive end Greg Hardy has 3.0 sacks.The Cardinals have one of the best gamebreakers in the league on their defense in cornerback Patrick Peterson. He had two interceptions against Tampa Bay that set up the tying touchdown and the go-ahead score. Karlos Dansby is an overpowering hitter from the inside linebacker spot while rookie Tyrann Mathieu is athletic and aggressive.
- Special TeamsThe Panthers have explosive Ted Ginn returning punts and kickoffs and it seems like it’s just a matter of time before he busts a long return. Graham Gano has not missed a FG attempt this year while Brad Nortman gets good height and distance on his punts.Peterson made the key plays on defense for the Cardinals in the Week Four victory over the Bucs; there’s no reason he couldn’t do the same as a returner against the Panthers. Jay Feely has a strong leg and he is not going to miss clutch kicks.
The Panthers have the edge in talent and they should win the game. However, they have struggled to play consistently on the road and they are going to have to step up their game if they are going to win in the desert. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor