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Panthers vs Cardinals: Offensive Preview

Here's a look a look at the match-up when the Panthers have the ball.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers Rushing Offense vs Cardinals Rush Defense

The Panthers have been a rush heavy offense the past couple of seasons but the reason is the running of QB Cam Newton. Newton has run the ball less this season, averaging 30 yds per game versus his career average of 40 yds per game. So a big question going into this one is how much will Cam Newton run.

Cam won't stop running: That will forever be my edge -

"Even through the game, I know everybody's watching going 'How many times is Cam gonna run?..." he said Wednesday. "That's who I am. I would prefer to be involved in the game. I know, as the Panthers, that's our edge.

"There's certain things that I look at quarterbacks around this league and say 'Damn, I wish I could do that.' Man, I wish I could win football games and make it look so cool like Tom Brady. Man I wish I had the throwing accuracy and throwing style like a Matt Stafford or Aaron Rodgers. You see young talent like the Kaepernicks, the Russell Wilsons, the Andrew Lucks, and guys like that. But my edge is running the football inside the tackle. When somebody tries to take that away from me, for what it is, that's who I am, that's me. That's gonna forever be my edge in this league."

So I expect Newton to run the ball at some point and it won't just be scrambles after the play breaks. I do expect some designed runs for him.

Here's how the stats look. The Panthers are 7th in rushing yards per game and 9th in yards per rush.

Stat Panthers Offense Cardinals Defense
Rush Yds per Game 121.0 96.9
Rush Yds per Game Rank 7th 13th
Rush Yds per Carry 4.4 3.8
Rush Yds per Carry Rank 9th 8th

So the remaining factor is RB Jonathan Stewart. Stewart had  a nice game in his first game back against the Saints, finishing with 85 yards and 2 TDs. The Panthers need some more of that tomorrow. They need to get yardage on 1st and 2nd down to avoid the 3rd and longs. In those situations we will see the Cardinals speed package that includes OLB Chandler Jones. How well the Panthers run the ball early will go a long ways towards the Panthers chancing of getting back on the winning track.

Panthers Passing Offense vs Cardinals Pass Defense

While the Cardinals secondary gets a lot press the pass rush has really improved this season. You can point to the impact of Jones for that. Arizona is 7th in the NFL in sacks with 17 and Jones has 5.0 of them. But he's not the only worry in that regard. OLB Markus Golden has 6.0 while ILB Kevin Minter has 2.5 and DE Calais Campbell has 2.0.

Stat Panthers Offense Cardinals Defense
Pass Yds per Game 273.3 193.0
Pass Yds per Game Rank 8th 3rd
Pass Yds per Catch 7.5 6.1
Pass Yds per Catch Rank 11th 3rd

I fully expect the Cardinals to put up at least 30 points on the Panthers defense so the Panthers offense will need to be efficient on 3rd down and hold the ball as much as possible. If they set up a lot of 3rd and shorts then that bodes well for them.

The X-Factor: WR Kelvin Benjamin

KB is the one weapon the Cardinals did not see last season and as is the case every week, he has a nice size advantage over the Cardinals' CBs. We know the Cardinals will focus on Olsen on 3rd down so it will be important for Benjamin to make some key grabs on 3rd down.

So what do you expect from the Panthers offense against the Cardinals?