The Carolina Panthers clawed their way to their first win of the 2020 season with an upset road win against the LA Chargers. This week, the team is back in the friendly confines of the Bank, where they will host the red hot Arizona Cardinals. Unluckily for the Panthers, the Cardinals defense is chock full of playmakers at every level.
Teddy Bridgewater was back to Teddy Bridgewater-ing this week after a sloppy performance against the Bucs. In LA, Teddy had a solid though uninspiring stat line: almost 80% completion rate, 235 yards passing, a touchdown, zero turnovers. This week, I doubt that performance will be enough to get away with a win. The Cardinals offense will likely put up some points, and the Panthers will have to keep up. Relying on dumpoffs to Mike Davis is not the way to keep pace with a dynamic offense.
Speaking of Mike Davis, he had a really nice day in Christian McCaffrey’s stead. While he can’t do everything CMC can, he filled in nicely with 91 scrimmage yards and a surprising eight catches. He also scored the lone Panthers touchdown. Seeing the runningback score the only Panthers touchdown is not surprising, but we expected 22 to be the number on that jersey. The receiving corps was kept relatively quiet. Robby Anderson led the way with five catches, while DJ Moore had the team high 65 receiving yards.
The offensive line... *checks notes... did really well against a dynamic pass rush, only allowing two sacks. While the Chargers were without one of their better rushers, that is still quite the feat. Backups on the left side of the line filled in relatively well, so shout out to those players and the offensive line coaches. They’ll need every bit of the confidence they’ve built this week.
One thing the Cardinals defense does is get after the quarterback. SEVEN different players already have at least one sack this season, and they’ve totaled 11 through three games. That’s with perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate Chandler Jones only having one sack to this point in the season. It’s not just the defensive line that can wreak havoc, either.
The linebackers Jordan Hicks and free agent acquisition De’Vondre Campbell have played very well so far this season, both in the top three in tackles on their team. The Cardinals also have Panthers Fans’ Draft Sweetheart Isaiah Simmons listed at linebacker, though he can line up just about anywhere. While one could argue that the Panthers got better value with getting Chinn later in the Draft, Simmons is an undeniably talented athlete and swiss army knife.
Speaking of undeniably talented swiss army knives, Budda Baker. Baker is now the highest paid “safety” in the NFL, and that title is well deserved. He leads the team in tackles and is truly a threat to line up anywhere and do anything on the defensive side of the ball. Oh, and the Cardinals added former first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick at corner to bookend with Patrick Peterson, who is still one of the best corners in the game. The Cardinals’ secondary is definitely their strength.
Good luck, Teddy. Maybe if the Panthers had McCaffrey in the lineup, they’d have a chance for some success. Without CMC, and with a relatively conservative passing attack, I don’t see this offense putting up a ton of points on Sunday. The Cardinals have too much talent rushing the passer and covering receivers for the Panthers to win in a shoot out. The team’s only hope would be to run the ball well, which is doable, and control the clock. Being forced to pass against this defense will not end well.