Cardinals Offense vs. Panthers Defense
Rookie John Skelton will make his second career start after an uneven performance against Denver (15-37, 146 yards). Skelton had his ups and downs, but did not turn the ball over and suffered from four drops by his receivers. The Big Red cannot afford a lack of execution and expect to win, especially with an unproven rookie under center. The Redbirds will also need another big game from Tim Hightower (career high 148 yards, two TDs vs. Denver).
The Panthers are lead by a fast aggressive secondary (ranked 10th in passing yards allowed) anchored by corners Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall. Combined with play-making linebacker Jon Beason (98 tackles) and pass rusher Charles Johnson (8.5 sacks). The Panthers have struggled on defense this season but are better than the 26 points per game they allow. Expect them to pin their ears back and come after the Cards’ young quarterback throughout the afternoon.
Cardinals Defense vs. Panthers Offense
The Cards defense came up big against Denver with six turnovers, but that kind of production can’t be expected on a weekly basis. Safety Kerry Rhodes has turned into the ball-hawk of the defense (4 INTs, 2 FRs) and rookie linebacker Daryl Washington (60 tackles) has gotten better with each week. Expect Adrian Wilson to line up all over the field in an effort to stifle and confuse Carolina’s offense.
Arizona will need to force Jimmy Clausen to beat them and focus on containing wide receiver Steve Smith. Clausen has been ineffective in his rookie season, throwing just one touchdown pass and seven interceptions. But the Panthers are still somewhat dangerous on offense with dual-threat Mike Goodson and Jonathon Stewart. The Cards’ defense looked much better last week, but could have its hands full against a hungry Carolina team.
Player to Watch – QB John Skelton
This goes without saying as the Cardinals have learned first-hand this season the importance of the quarterback position. Skelton is an intriguing prospect with all the physical skills to be a successful NFL signal caller. He’s shown plenty of potential in game situations, made tough throws and displayed the maturity expected for the position.
Now comes a tough test in the form of a Panthers’ secondary, licking its chops at the prospect of facing a young, unproven QB. Skelton will need to be on his game and give his skill position players chances to make plays to have success on Sunday.
Follow Ryan Knowles on Twitter: @RyKno52