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Panthers vs Cardinals offensive preview: Panthers face tough test in Arizona

P.J. Walker takes the reigns against Arizona’s fourth-ranked defense

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers (4-5) head to Arizona on Sunday to take on the Cardinals (8-1). Carolina lost 24-6 to the New England Patriots on Sunday while the Cardinals got back into the win column with a 31-17 win over the 49ers. The week before that they had suffered their first loss of the season to the Green Bay Packers.

With quarterback Sam Darnold out for at least four weeks, the Panthers have given the starting nod to backup P.J. Walker for Sunday at least.

Let’s jump into how the Panthers offense could fair against the Cardinals defense.

Panthers offense

NFL: New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Yards per game: 318.7 (27th)
Pass yards per game: 208.2 (29th)
Rush yards per game: 110.4 (17th)
Points per game: 19 (26nd)

How much can we really expect from a P.J. Walker-led offense? Not much, if you ask me. The ex-Temple Owl is a Matt Rhule guy and hasn’t really shown the capability of being an effective starting quarterback. In seven appearances (one start) with the team over the last two seasons, he’s completed 35-of-71 passes (49.3 percent) for 401 yards (5.6 yards per attempt), one touchdown and five interceptions. He also has seven carries for 10 yards. Elsewhere on the quarterback depth chart, Matt Barkley was signed off the Titans’ practice squad Tuesday to handle backup duties, says ESPN.

Walker gets some nice extra help with Christian McCaffrey back in action after having missed the previous five games. Last week against the Patriots McCaffrey racked up 106 total yards. But will it be good enough to beat the Cardinals? It’s highly unlikely.

Cardinals defense

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Yards per game: 321 (4th)
Pass yards per game: 210 (6th)
Rush yards per game: 111 (18th)
Points per game: 17.2 (3rd)
Turnovers: 17 (3rd)

Statistically, the Cardinals defense is really good.

The offense is fifth in the league in average time of possession, so it could be argued that perhaps the defense shoulders a reduced load. On the other hand, you can’t really argue with a unit that allows just 17 points per game. They allow a measly 210 pass yards per game to opposing offenses. They’re a good defense on a good team and it’s going to be a challenge for Walker on Sunday.

Linebacker Jordan Hicks leads Arizona’s defense with 64 tackles while Byron Murphy Jr. leads the team with three picks and eight passes defended. Former New York Giant Markus Golden, in his second stint with the Cardinals, leads the team with nine sacks.

Overall match-up

It’s not reasonable to expect the Panthers offense to do well against the Cardinals, and that won’t come as a shocker to our readers. It’s going to be a tough day and the Panthers will need to lean on McCaffrey for the majority of their offensive output. It would be nice if Walker pulls off some magic, but don’t bet on it.