It has been a tough year for the Arizona Cardinals, until you look at their opponent today and realize just how much worse it could possbily be. That doesn’t mean the Carolina Panthers or their fans are folding up shop.
Jaxon, the GM over at Cat Scratch Reader was kind enough to take some time out and explain what is going on with the Cardinals playoff arch nemesis.
1. What the heck is going on in Carolina?
Jaxon: That’s a complicated answer as it hasn’t been one specific thing. I think it starts with Newton being tentative in the pocket early in the season. The play calling has been more passing and less running by Newton as well. The missed FG resulting in the season opening loss to the Broncos had an effect on moral too I believe. The defense went in the crapper against two high scoring offenses most recently. Finally injuries have taken a toll as well. All that leads to a 1-5 crap sandwich.
2. Did the loss of Josh Norman really effect the team that much, or is it more than that on defense?
Jaxon: While there is no doubt the secondary would be better with him they wouldn’t have looked so bad if not for injuries. The secondary has been the hardest hit in that regard. Just as James Bradberry was starting to look really good he got turf toe. Robert McClain has missed time and for some reason we cut our only other vet starter Bene Benwikere. I’m still scratching my head on that one.
Riddle me this. What’s so bad about making a guy play on a franchise tag even if you think you have little chance of re-signing him long term? Cutting Norman did him a favor and no one else. But I digress…
3. Where is the strength of the Carolina offense now?
Jaxon: The strength isn’t the running game like it used to be. Now it’s Newton’s ability to spread the ball around with a focus on TE Greg Olsen. Olsen is having a career season and has been hard to stop. Stewart is back from injury so there is a chance we could run the ball better but I’m not very hopeful of that.
4. Who has been the biggest revelation this year that most NFL fans would not know for Carolina?
Jaxon: Given we are 1-5 with a roster very similar to last season’s there haven’t been many revelations. For Panther fans getting an excellent punter in Andy Lee has been a revelation. Lee has been remarkable though Cardinals fans may have already known that. Most Panther fans were not happy with the trade for him but now that we’ve seen his work there are no complaints.
5. What is next for the panthers, can they still make the playoffs, is this a lost season?
Jaxon: I think a loss this Sunday would be the last nail in their coffin. While 10-6 might still be good for a wildcard spot, expecting them to win nine straight is a fool’s errand. They need to win a few games so that a 6th loss isn’t so devastating. While I think they have the talent and ability to still win 10 games it is highly unlikely given how they have played so far.