The Friday Five: Keys to a Panthers victory over the Cardinals

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers will face the Cardinals this Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ. Here are five things the Panthers need to do if they want to get their second win of the 2013 season.

The Carolina Panthers were on their bye last week, so it's been a while since we watched them pick up their first win of the season after they dismantled the New York Giants to the tune of 38-0.

But that was two weeks ago, and now they have to try and figure out a way to keep that momentum going as they travel out west to take on the Arizona Cardinals, who the Panthers haven't seen since Cam Newton's NFL debut in 2011. Hopefully things won't turn out the same way they did that day, because the Panthers need to pick up a win to get back to .500 and begin their attempt to catch the Saints for the division lead.

I think it's safe to assume that Carolina wants to win the NFC South, so they're probably interested in winning this game. Here are five keys for a victory this Sunday against the Cardinals that will help them accomplish that goal.

Give Carson Palmer nightmares

I'd be willing to bet that Palmer still hurts from that hit he took from Greg Hardy at the end of last season. If the Panthers want to increase their chances of winning this Sunday's game, they have to put pressure on Palmer and force him to make mistakes. That shouldn't be too much of an issue since the Cardinals recently traded LT Levi Brown to the Steelers. The Cardinals have a weakness here, and the Panthers need to expose it.

Don't let Larry Fitzgerald take over

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. You don't have to point out how bad our secondary is. Trust me, I know.

So how are we going to prevent Fitz from taking over the game? It's easy. We don't let Carson Palmer throw it to him.

This goes along with the first point above -- if the pass rush can keep Palmer from finding his receivers, the Panthers will most likely win the game.

If you own Fitz in fantasy, I'm sorry -- I hope he scores you zero points this Sunday.

Avoid Daryl Washington at all costs

Let's be real here: Daryl Washington is a beast. The Panthers offense needs to make sure they know where he is at all times, because if they don't he can impact the game in a huge way for the Cardinals.

I'm not saying that the Panthers should focus their game plan solely on him, but he should be a major concern for Mike Shula because he is one of the premier inside linebackers in the NFL. He's also coming off a four game suspension, so he's going to be hungry. We cannot allow him to eat. It's that simple.

Don't let Patrick Peterson beat you on special teams

Brad Nortman has been flat out kicking the crap out of the ball so far this year. (Told y'all so.) The Cardinals have a dynamic punt returner in Patrick Peterson. Simply put: he cannot make an impact in this game for Arizona. If Carolina wants to increase their chances of winning, they have to keep Peterson in check. It won't be easy, but it's also not impossible.

Of course, it would be nice if the offense never put the punt team on the field. That would help out a lot.

Keep twisting the knife

We finally saw some of that "twist the knife" mentality two weeks ago, but we need to see more of it. The Panthers can't be comfortable with a seven point lead, and they can't leave points on the field when they have an opportunity to score before halftime. Those things matter, and hopefully Rivera will be confident enough to push the envelope after having some positive results on fourth down opportunities against New York. If they can do that, then they have a great chance to succeed.

That's it for this week's Friday Five. If Rivera can follow this road map against the Cardinals on Sunday, then Carolina should be able to claim their second victory of the season and get back to .500 for the first time since the second week of last season.

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