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Panthers vs. Cardinals: Blogger Q&A

It's time for Blogger Q&A. This weeks edition comes courtesy of Andrew over at Revenge of the Birds. He was kind enough to answer five questions I had for him. He should have my answers to his questions posted sometime soon. I might also recommend a nice post on the head-to-head match-up evaluation.

Question 1:  How would you compare this years' Cardinals team to last years SB runner-up? Better or worse? What are you basing that on?

ROTB: This year's team is similar to last years, but has surprisingly changed. We changed offensive and defensive coordinators, and when you do that, any team will be different. Ken Whisenhunt is calling the plays now, something he did in '07, and there's been an adjustment. The offense has appeared out of sync at times, and a little more conservative (you probably won't see any deep balls thrown to Fitzgerald this Sunday). I think it will take time, but our offense could get back to what it was. On defense we're better. Clancy Pendergast used way too many exotic schemes and players were often caught out of position. Bill Davis is our defensive coordinator now and he likes to blitz...a lot. He utilized Adrian Wilson better, and puts defenders in position. Overall we're a much better team because of the balance.

Fitzgerald’s long reception is 27 yards to that reinforces the notion they don’t go sdeep to Fitz. That’s good to hear!

Question 2: What is the early impression of rookie RB Beanie Wells? Is he the solution at RB long-term for the Cardinals?

ROTB: Oh yeah. Wells is the solution at running back. He probably won't be rookie of the year but he's going to get more carries as the season progresses. Here's my impression - Wells is a rare running back in the league. He is very explosive, fast and can make a cut on a dime. He also has incredible power, a beautiful stiff-arm, and can run over defenders. The problem is, he puts the ball on the ground too much. Wells already has 5 fumbles on the year on my count, but only 1 lost. He injured his ankle early in the off season and didn't get a lot of practice, but he's catching on now and got more carries last week. Watch out for him on Sunday.

 Let’s see if the Panthers can get Wells to cough one up.

Question 3: I still have nightmares of WR Larry Fitzgerald running wild on those crossing routes. Is that play still a staple in the offense? What other plays has Fitzgerald excelled at?

ROTB: It could be a staple on the offense. Like I said, with Whisenhunt calling the plays, things haven't been the same. Fitzgerald has caught most of his passes of curl routes or quick slants. However, he's caught a couple passes on the crossing routes and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cardinals use them more as the season goes on. He's mostly polished everything, and hasn't brought too many more looks to his game.

I’ll be sleeping under my Indian Dreamcatcher until this game is over.

Question 4: The Panthers have the #1 ranked passing defense and the Cardinals have the #1 ranked rushing defense. I'm pretty sure the Panthers ranking is a mirage since teams have run the ball to protect the lead. Do the Cardinals deserve their #1 ranking and if so why?

ROTB: Yes. I'll say yes for two reasons. They've lined up against Frank Gore, Maurice Jones-Drew, Joseph Addai, Steve Slaton, Julius Jones, and Brandon Jacobs, and not one of them has gone over 100 yards, and when you're six games into the season, that isn't a fluke. Now...the Cardinals have managed to score early in some games, and it has forced the opposing teams to pass more, but when you can't run the ball in the first place, you're generally going to pass the ball more anyway (See us). So 6 games into the season, I'd say they deserve it.

 So will this be the week the Panthers stick the run AND maybe throw in a few wrinkles? We can only hope.

Question 5: You’re the defending NFC Champions and sit at 4-2 yet you might as well be 2-4 given how little the Cardinals are mentioned as one of the top teams in the conference. Are you looking for a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

ROTB: I know Kurt Warner is. I think he said it best - People still view the Cardinals as a second rate team. Truth is, we're a small market of fans and are just now starting to be a good team after all the years of living in the NFL basement. I think some people are skeptical and are waiting for the Cardinals to go back to their old ways. The respect will come, for now the Cardinals just feed off of not getting any.

Ahhh…the Steve Smith ‘the World is against me’ technique for manufacturing game day motivation. We know it well...The Panthers have to know Jake’s job is on the line. Let’s see if they instead are the team that comes out with some fire.

Julius Peppers always plays well against the Cardinals. Maybe he can make a big play or two that allows the Panthers to get an early lead and then allows them to run their deliberate, run oriented offense. Otherwise it’s going to be a long afternoon.