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2016 Regular Season
Preview: Cards @ Carolina

Setting the Stage:
Cardinals tied Seattle on Sunday night. Panthers are coming off a Bye Week. Cards have an uphill battle to catch up with and then pass the Seahawks (who enjoy a 1.5 game edge). Panthers are a surprising 1 & 5, having lost to Denver, Minny, Atlanta, Buccos and Saints and convincingly beaten the Niners. Panthers had been banged up, but the Bye week helped heal many physical wounds. The extra week was spent correcting mistakes and dealing with bruised egos. Panthers have something to prove. Cards have something to play for. A must game for the Cards/a desperation game for the Panteras.

Opponent's Last Game
Panthers had a Bye Week.

Team Stats to Date
(Note: Only killing stat for Panthers is the minus-8 turnover margin).

Passing Yards Per Game - Carolina: 1749- Opponents: 1779

Rushing Yards Per Game - Carolina: 726 - Opponents: 537

Third Down Conversions - Carolina: 33/81 - Opponents: 34/80

Rushing YPC - Carolina: 4.4 - Opponents: 3.3

Ratio - Rushing to Passing - Carolina: 164/232 - Opponents: 162/206

TD's -Carolina: 19 - Opponents: 20

Passing Compl/Att/Int/Avg/Yds -Carolina: 140/232/10/7.5 - Opponents: 133/206/6/8.6

Sacks - Carolina: 12 - Opponents: 15

Field Goals - Carolina: 9/12- Opponents: 11/14

Time of Possession -Carolina: 31:02- Opponents: 28:58

Turnover Ratio Minus - 8

Key Player Stats

Passing: Newton -104 of 180 for 1296 yards, 57.8% CA, 8 TD's. 6 picks. Sacked 15 times. D Anderson 36 of 52 for 453 yds, 69.2 CA, 2 TD's, 4 Picks. Not sacked.

Rushing: Whitaker: 185 yds on 33 att = 5.6 ypc. J Stewart: 158 yds on 39 attempts = 4.1 ypc. C Newton: 148 yds on 31 att = 4.8 ypc. Artis-Payne: 144 yds on 36 att = 4.0 ypc.

Receiving: Olsen: 39 catches for 610 yds (15.6 ypc) and 2 TD's). Benjamin: 29 catches for 394 yards (13.6 ypc) and 4 TD's. Whittaker: 20 catches for 168 yards (8.4 ypc) and no TD's.

Field Goals - Gano is 10 for 12 (both misses from outside the 50.

Punting - Lee's gross yardage is 49.5

Punt Returns - Ginn is averaging 6.3 yds per return/no TD's. Opponents have scored one TD

Kickoff Returns - Ginn is averaging 22.3 ypc. Opponents are averaging only 16.8.

Tackles - Kuechly (68 tackles) leads team by far, followed by . (T Davis (32) and Coleman (31)

Sacks - 12 Sacks. Spread around. Boston (2), Addison (1.5), Love (1.5), (Opponents have 15 sacks).

Interceptions - 6 Picks: Six players have one pick apiece. (Opponents have 10 picks).


Carolina Offense

WR....13 Benjamin (A)........17 Funchess (P)........11 Bersin (P)
LT.......73 Oher. (P)..............78 Hawkins (A)
LG.....68 Norwell (AA)........79 Scott (A)  
OC    .67 Kali (AA)..............66 Gradkowski (A)     
RG     70 Turner (AA)....
RT......74 Remmers (P)
TE     .88 Olsen (E).............84 Dickson (P)...........80 Simonson (P)........82 Manhertz (P)
WR    19 Ginn Jr (BA)........10 P Brown (BA)                                  
QB ... 01 C Newton (AA) ...03 D Anderson (P).....14 Webb (P)
FB......35 Tolbert (P)
RB.....28 J Stewart (BA).....43 Whittaker (BA)......34 Artis-Payn
e (BA)

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality), E = Elite, R= Rookie

Cardinal Defense

LDE      93 Campbell (HQ) ....72 Stinson (P)
NT        98 Peters (A)..............69 X Williams (P)......72 Pierre (LI)                
DT        95 Gunter (P).............92 Rucker (A) ...........97 Mauro (A)....90 Nkemdiche (A)
SLB     55 C Jones (HQ).........57 Okafor (A)               
ILB       20 Bucannon (A) .......50 G Martin (LI)           
ILB       51 Minter (AA)............54 Bartu                
WLB    44 Golden (HQ)..........96 K Martin (P)     
LCB     21 Peterson HQ)....... 29 Simon (A)                
RCB    41 Cooper (P).............26 B Williams .........28 Bethel (BA)              
SS       36 Swearinger (A)            
FS       32 Mathieu (A)............22 T Jefferson (HQ)

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality), E = Elite, R= Rookie

Matchup: Carolina Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Carolina's OL has been experiencing an accellerated game of musical chairs, with Michael Oher (concussion) sidelined and RT Mike Remmers shifting to LT to replace Oher and backyo OT Daryl Williams stepping up to replace Remmers. This has had a signifcant impact on all aspects of the Panther offense. With a bit of uncertainty, coach-speak etc. about Oher's return to action, it's hard to get a handle on what to expect from Carolina's offense Sunday (i.e. if Carolina continues to shuffle around its O-linemen, Cardinal defenders are likely to have a pretty good day. But if Oher returns and Remmers goes back to RT, the Cards may be facing the Super Bowl version of the Pantera offense.

BA and Goodwin would be smart to operate on the right side of caution and assume that Carolina will be at full-strength and we're going to see the Newton- Olsen-Benjamin offensive extravaganza, - complete with zone reads, mobility outside the pocket etc.

When healthy, the Panthers pose a multiple threat - (1) Cam Newton or his RB's (Stewart or Whittaker) running between the tackles on zone reads (2) Newton to Olsen or Benjamin through the air. (3) Newton scrambling outside the pocket. Cards will have to take care of each threat without making themselves vulnerable to the other threats.

In their two most recent games against the Jets and Seattle, Card defenders played solid, intense but disciplined football (You just don't see a lot of 6-point games in the NFL). They know how to defend the zone read, but hey'll have to be "perfect" once again this week.

Assuming Peterson's back holds up, expect the Cards to play man vs. Benjamin. Ginn has got game-breaking speed. Cards may want to take away the deep ball by keeping a man deep or double covering him.

If you read between the lines of various media reports, you detect the concern about (1) the time it will take for Carolina blockers to get up to speed/communicating properly and (2) conditioning issues concerning returning Panther players. Rivera expects BA to throw the kitchen sink at the Panthers...and he might just be right.

Key Matchups: C Newton vs. Spy (Mathieu or Bucannon). OL vs. C Jones, Golden, Nkemdiche. Olsen vs. Jefferson or Bucannon. Peterson vs. Benjamin. Double coverage on Ginn.

Matchup: Carolina Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
When you play Carolina, it's like facing a 2-RB offense (with Cam Newton every much a running threat as his RB - Stewart or Whittaker). Stewart has always been a tough runner, but Panthers seem to be using Whittaker more. Cards like to blow up zone read plays by attacking up the gaps in an effort to blow up the play at point of handoff. Panthers know this. Card tacklers must play the way they've played the past 2 weeks and stay disciplined - protect the gaps, keep Newton under control, protect outside contain and be 100% deadly tackling in the open field.

Expect Cards to vary their schemes and disguise their looks with a lot of "blitz then adjust" strategies geared to put pressure on the Panthers while minimizing long-gainer threats.

Key Matchup: Spy vs. Newton*. Peterson vs. Benjamin. Card Front Seven vs. Seattle OL/TE. Jefferson vs. Olsen. Okafor vs. Stewart or Whittaker * Expect Cards to vary/disguise its spies - could be Mathieu or Buccanon or even Minter.

Cardinal Offense

WR1    11 Fitzgerald (AA)......10 Golden (P)
LT        68 Veldheer (A).........75 Ulrick                    
LG       76 Iupati (AA)...........73 Wetzel (P)                      
C         53 Shipley (AA)........70 Boehm (BA)                    
RG       78 Watford (P).........61 Toner (R)          
RT........74 Humphries (A).....xx Ulrick (LI)
TE       .85 Fells (P)............80 Momah (BA)      
WR2    15 M. Floyd (P)........12 John Brown (A).....14 JJ Nelson  (A)       
QB       03 Palmer* (P).........05 Stanton (P)     
RB       31 D Johnson (AA)..38 Ellington (BA) ................30 Taylor (BA)
TE        84 Gresham (P).......89 Valles (P)

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality), E = Elite, R= Rookie

Carolina Defense

LDE.......95 C Johnson (A).......96 Horton (P)
LDT.......98 Lotuleilei (P)...........90 Solial (P)
RDT......99 Short (A).................92 Butler. (A)..........77 Love (P)
RDE.....94 Ealy (P)....................97 Addison
SB........54 S Thompson (AA)...56 Klein (P)............52 Norris (R)
MLB.....59 Kuechly (E)   
WLB.....58 .T Davis (A).............55 Mayo (LI)...........57 Cash (R).. 
LCB......24 Bradbury (A)...........27 McClain (P).......21 .T Williams (BA)
RCB.....26 Worley (A)................31 Sanchez. (P)
SS........20 .Coleman (P)...........22 Griffin (BA)    
FS........33 Boston (A)...............42 Co Jones

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality), E = Elite, R= Rookie

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Carolina Pass Defense
We predicted it - the Cards looked likely to be most vulnerable at their deepest roster position. Well now, Jaron Brown is now on IR. John Brown's sickel cell circulation issues are still being tended to. when Michael Floyd hasn't been banged up, he's been inconsistent. Palmer hasn't even been able to rely on a dependible TE like Jeremy Gresham to deliver consistently in the clutch That's left "Old Man FItzgerald" and a bunch of youngsters to share the receiving burden. Fortunately, they're delivered, but the depth at WR becomes thinner and thinner.

Although Palmer's pass blockers have been relatively adept at keeping would-be tacklers off of him, there have been too many times when the Cardinal QB has had to either hurry his throws or throw off his back foot because the collapsing inside pocket doesn't give him ample room to step into his throws. Iupati came back from injury to replace Wetzel at LG, but was injured late in the Seattle game - his status for Sunday is unclear.

A key area of Panther vulnerability has been in its secondary. CB's (Bradbury, McClain and L Johnson have been sidelined. At least two of them are expected to return vs. Arizona). It's unclear how quickly they'll get back up to full speed (both physically and mentally). We've got to expect BA and Palmer to at least test the Pantera secondary for vulnerability and continue to attack it until the Panthers stop it.

The strength of Carolina's defense (at least of late) has been its LB's. From a numbers standpoint, the Carolina pass rush has been less than scary (with their top pass rusher (Boston) only credited with 2 sacks. But Rivera has talked about improving Carolina's take-away ratio, so we may see more exotic pass rush stuff- including games/blitzes from their premier LB's Kuechly and Thompson.

Cards may look to their TE (Momah?) or RB (D Johnson) to keep Kuechly and Thompson occupied in the passing game.

Key Matchups: Fitz vs. Bradbury. Floyd vs. McClain. TE (Gresham or Momah) or RB (D Johnson) vs. Kuechly or Thompson. Cardinal OL vs. Carolina DL.

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Carolina Run Defense
In the past, the Cardinal running attack was considered more important as a threat to divert attention from the enemy pass rush than it was to actually gain positive yardage. This year has been different with David Johnson consistently stacking up 100-yard games. With LB's Kuechly and Thomspon the heart of the Carolina defense and among the NFL elite, the Cards may consider going back to their use of the run to set up the pass and to keep pass rushers off Palmer.

Key Matchups: D Johnson vs. Kuechly. Cardinal OL vs. Carolina DL.

Special Teams


K         09 Gano                      
P         08 Lee                       
H        .08 Lee
LS      .44 Jansen                     
KR      19 Ginn Jr               
PR      19 Ginn


K          07 Catanzaro                             
P          09 Quigley                                   
H          02 Butler                             
LS        46 Brewer                                 
KR       38 Ellington              
PR       21 Peterson

Matchup: Carolina Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Who'd have thunk the chief point of Cardinal vulnerabiity would be on Special Teams. Former Card Ginn Jr. is a threat to break it all the way at any time. Gano (along with most other NFL kickers) has the edge over Catanzaro. Ditto Lee vs. Quigley. Card returners have not done anything thus far to scare anybody. (Note - we're not fans of putting your stars in harm's way, but - with John Brown's status uncertain, we've penciled in Patrick Peterson as our punt returner).

Key matchups: Campbell and Bethel vs. Gano. Brewer vs. any rusher willing/able to jump over him.

Carolina -When a championship team explodes out of the gate at 1 & 5, it's easy for players who've only experienced top of the pack success to lose their zip. Ron River
a remains a positive, stable presence as Panther HC. His job is to keep his team playing at a high degree of intensity, consistency and focus and there's no reason why he won't. We'd be naiive, though, if we didn't concede he faces a pretty formidable challenge.

Cards - Coach Arians has got his team back to .500 and playing at a high level, but - when you consider the way we lost the NE and now the Seattle game, he has to watch out for his team to be type-cast as "the perpetual victim" (i.e. of bad calls, ST screw ups and other freaky things that can cost you football games. The danger is that his players start to believe this sort of bleep and start to expect bad luck to happen").

Cards - The only guy I heard anything about was Iupati leaving the Seattle game and Jaron going on IR.I

Carolina - Bradbury, McClain, Oher and possibly L Johnson could all be back.

How to Beat Carolina
(1) Don't let Newton beat you with his feet (2) Use spies/disguise looks. (3) Control the Zone Read. (4) Occupy Kuechly and Thompson (5) Win WR vs. DB battles. (6) (5) No - Zero - Nada mistakes on Special Teams.

Last Word:
There's a lot at stake. Much better to enter Bye Week one game over .500 than one game under. Cards should feel confident they can run with any dawg in the NFL but frustrated about finding new, innovative ways to lose. When BA talks about "taking care of the little things", we hope he includes Special Teams play. This team deserves to have its superlativ play validated with a stack of wins, but unfortunately, that's not always the way it works in the NFL. Play hard; play fast; play smart.

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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 03/25/2013