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Panthers vs Cardinals: Key Matchups

A look at the key player matchups between the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals.

NFL: NFC Championship-Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

These two teams go in to Sunday’s rematch with a stark difference from their last bout. The Panthers were the one loss juggernauts while the Cardinals weren’t far behind them. Now the Panthers are the one win team going for its last gasp against a team who could really use this win, not only to get themselves above .500 but get some revenge on the Panthers team that decimated the dominant Cardinals. It should be a fun one and the two teams aren’t all that different from one another since their last game.

Larry Fitzgerald vs. James Bradberry/Leonard Johnson

Larry Fitz has easily been the Cardinals’ top target this year, with 46 receptions and 5 touchdowns. Though Fitzgerald is in the waning years of his career, he’s still one of the most effective weapons in the NFL with his utilization on the outside and in the slot. The Panthers defense currently field multiple rookies and only Robert McClain has experience covering Larry Fitzgerald as a corner. James Bradberry will probably see some of Fitzgerald as the Cardinals will try to establish the run, but in passing situations new face Leonard Johnson will see him in the slot. Johnson is being tasked with jump starting this secondary, definitely not an easy task. It doesn't get any easier with one of the best to ever play wide receiver playing your debut game.

Mike Iupati vs. Kawann Short

If anybody can get this defensive line and pass rush going, it’s Short. He hasn’t been having a bad season per say, but his impact as far as actual plays like sacks go hasn’t been up to par with 2015. Part of the issue is more attention, but more so that the line as a whole can’t generate pressure. Short had quite the day against Carson Palmer and the Cardinals last time around and this could be the way to spark his season. Iupati is no slouch at guard though and will likely see Short most of the game. The lines will control how this game goes.

Mike Remmers vs. Chandler Jones

Speaking of lines, Oher is going to miss once again. This is bad news for an offensive line that has struggled mightily this year with protecting Cam. Jones is a great athlete as defensive end who can chase down Newton, meaning the offense will have to game plan to help Remmers at left tackle. The Cardinals have a few good pieces on the defensive line who could cause problems for the entire offensive line. Hopefully with several weeks for this group to mesh and a bye week to get acquainted they can do at least a little better without Oher.

Kelvin Benjamin vs. Patrick Peterson

While Greg Olsen will be heavily involved once again, Peterson will likely shadow the Panthers’ number one receiver in this game. Olsen and Benjamin have become Cam’s two primary targets and have seen a lot of volume as a result. Benjamin did manage to make some plays the last time he saw Peterson, and with his size can out muscle him for the ball. But Peterson is a top tier man to man corner and Cam would be wise to not look his way as often as he has. Between Deone Buchanon, Peterson, and Tyrann Mathieu, the Panthers number one targets will have their work cut out for them.