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NFL Week 1, Arizona Cardinals Vs Carolina Panthers: Five Key Matchups

Adrian Wilson vs Cam Newton – All reports seem to indicate that Adrian Wilson is ready to step into the Cardinals starting lineup week one. His role in the new defense being installed in Arizona promises to be a key one, despite the time he has missed in training camp and throughout the preseason. The Cardinals staff will look to confuse the rookie QB in his first NFL start, watch for Wilson to move around a lot pre-snap and force the rookie QB to pay attention to his location before each and every snap. An equal dose of zone and man coverage’s with blitzes thrown from both at the LOS and from deep. Wilson will play a key role in limiting the effectiveness of the Panther Tight Ends who have quickly become favoured targets of Newton, if Wilson can get the Newton early, and take away his safety blankets it is going to be a long debut for the #1 overall pick.

Cardinals DL vs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart – If the Cardinals want to win their first game of the season their defensive line will be a key. Any team breaking in a rookie QB is going to lean heavily on the running game and the Panthers will be no different. In DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart the Panthers have a very effective ground game, in 2009 the duo combined for 245 yards and 2 scores in a Panthers win and Stewart had 137 yards in a loss in 2010. The Cardinals DL is the first line of defense in the battle against the Panthers backs, and they will have to perform at their best to limit the duo. If the Cardinals lose this battle it eases the pressure on Newton and tips the balance of the game in favour of the Panthers and if the Cardinals can limit the effectiveness of the Panthers backs it puts the game on the Arm of Cam Newton.

Todd Heap vs Charles GodfreyKevin Kolb has a history of throwing to his Tight Ends and in Arizona he is likely to continue that trend with the addition of Todd Heap to the birdgang. Charles Godfrey had a breakout season in 2010 after a move to the SS position and in 2010 he was the Panthers key man in coverage on opposing Tight Ends. If Heap can provide a big and consistent target for Kolb over the middle and on 3rd down it will allow the Cardinals to maintain long drives, leading points, a tiring Panthers defense and a fresh Cardinals defense.

Levi Brown vs Charles Johnson – Charles Johnson had a huge season in 2010, leading the Panthers in sacks in replacement of Julius Peppers and he was rewarded for his performance with a huge payday in the 2011 offseason. Johnson is the key to the Panthers pass rush, and his matchup with Levi Brown is balanced decidely in his favour. If Kolb does not have time to drop back and throw the football it could spell disaster for the Cardinals. If Johnson gets some pressure early look for the Cardinals to use their Tight Ends to help Brown gain the upper hand in this matchup. However if the Cardinals are forced to use their Tight End in protection too much, it will take away from their effectiveness in the passing game. Brown needs to at least hold his own in this battle, but that is likely asking too much.

Cardinals Interior OL vs Panthers interior DL – The Panther are sending out two rookie, Sione Fua and Terrell McClain to start at defensive tackle week one. A matchup the Cardinals need to win if they want to win this football game. A win on the ground gets Beanie Wells to the second level on a consistent basis, and a consistent 3-5 yards on the ground changes the complexion of the game, instead of third and six you get third and two. In the aid if the OL wins the battle it give Kolb room to step into his throws, and that makes a massive difference in all facets of a pass. Win this battle, the Cardinals offense should have a great night

*Note - Bolded is my predicted Matchup winner.