Carolina Panthers Vs Arizona Cardinals
|Points Scored Per Game||22.8||18th||17.3||25th|
|Points Allowed Per Game||12.0||3rd||22.3||14th|
|Pass Yards Per Game||170||32nd||242||18th|
|Pass Yards Allowed Per Game||226||12th||266||20th|
|Pass Yards Per Attempt||6.6||25th||6.7||22nd|
|Pass Yards Allowed Per Attempt||7.6||21st||6.8||13th|
|Rush Yards Per Game||151||3rd||78.8||27th|
|Rush Yards Allowed Per Game||93||7th||75||2nd|
|Rush Yards Per Attempt||4.4||12th||4.1||14th|
|Rush Yards Allowed Per Attempt||3.7||8th||3.0||3rd|
|Third Down Percentage||48.8%||3rd||29.2%||30th|
|Third Down Percentage Allowed||38.5%||19th||39.6%||23rd|
|Average Rank||13.6||Average Rank||17.6|
Not So Fast
If you believe the Carolina Panthers are going to waltz into the desert and put a beat down on the Arizona Cardinals like they did against the New York Giants, then you might want to reconsider your position. On paper, the Panthers appear to be the better team, but perhaps this is merely an illusion. After all, three out of the Cardinals first four games were played on the road and they still managed to walk away with a .500 record. Furthermore, the only game they played at home so far this season resulted in a week two victory over the upstart Detroit Lions, who would still be undefeated today at 4-0 had it not been for those pesky red birds. Keep in mind that this mild upset was going down at approximately the same time the Panthers were losing in dramatic fashion to the Buffalo Bills on the road.
What The Data Says
The average ranking of these two teams in all of the crucial statistical categories highlighted at the bottom of the chart above(13.6, 17.6) is telling because it reveals that they aren't a world apart. When you consider the fact that the Cardinals are 1-0 at home and the Panthers are 0-1 on the road in the early stages of this 2013 season, one could easily conclude that Sunday's game will be evenly matched.
Come Sunday, I will be paying close attention to how effectively the Panthers are able to rush the ball against the formidable run defense of the Cardinals, which is limiting their opponents to just three yards per carry through the first four games(3rd in the NFL). If the Panthers expect to win this game, they must rush for more than the stingy 75 yards the home team has been allowing per game. Of course, the Panthers, who are no slouches when it comes to stopping the run, will need to continue that trend as well.
Perhaps the most puzzling statistic coming from the Panthers side through their first three games is Cam Newton's average passing yards per game. Frankly, 170 passing yards per game isn't a recipe for long term success in today's NFL, where there is a plethora of highly potent offensive teams ready to steamroll anyone who is merely mediocre when it comes to moving the chains, scoring points and winning games. To be clear, Newton's lack of passing yards has nothing to do with his own deficiencies or regression. Rather, it is painfully obvious that offensive coordinator Mike Shula is the one who has arrested Newton's growth and the overall success of the team thus far.
However, I was encouraged by Shula's(Rivera) willingness to finally give their franchise quarterback some more room to operate a game plan which caters to his strengths in their blowout win against the Giants, even if it was a decision made out of desperation. Maybe this is the week that Newton is able to recapture the same magic of his last trip to Arizona when he threw for over 400 yards in his NFL debut, but I'll be extremely surprised to see anywhere near that type of output.
The Final Word
Ultimately, the only thing that matters is whether or not the Panthers leave the desert with a win Sunday evening. Take my word for it, this will be a dogfight. As always, the statistics will have their place, but the team who does more of the 'little' things(like blocking) that don't show up in the box score will most likely be the one that leaves University of Phoenix stadium victorious. For what it's worth, my money is on Newton and the Panthers making amends for their heartbreaking loss to the Cardinals in 2011.
Final Score: Panthers 27 Cardinals 23
Keep in mind that my final score prediction below was determined before the Jon Beason trade. I decided to leave it as is because I simply have no clue what the psyche of the Panthers will be after losing such a strong leader in the locker room. There is no way of knowing where their individual and collective heads(and hearts) will be during the game. I suppose we will have an answer late Sunday evening.
What say you CSR?