NFL Football Preview: Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals

NFL Football Preview:  Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals

It’ll be NFC West vs. NFC South in the desert on Sunday as the Carolina Panthers travel to face the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona is 2-2 in the first year under new head coach Bruce Arians. That’s not a bad start for a team that went 5-11 a year ago and has played 3 of their first 4 games on the road. The betting marketplace isn’t giving the Cardinals much respect, however, as they’ve been underdogs in their first four games and are a short priced home underdog here. Carolina is 1-2 on the year following a home victory over the hapless New York Giants on September 22nd.

Frankly, we don’t understand why linesmakers and bettors think so little of the current situation in Arizona. Carson Palmer isn’t exactly a Pro Bowl level quarterback but he’s a significant upgrade from the Cardinals revolving door at the position a year ago. Palmer does have a great receiver to throw to–Larry Fitzgerald is arguably the best in the NFL. The team still lacks a viable rushing game and the defense needs some significant improvements. That being said, they’re already a much better team than they were a year ago due to some wise personnel moves and a huge upgrade in coaching. Arians came over from the Indianapolis Colts in the offseason and is highly regarded by players and seasoned NFL observers alike.

Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton is still a tough matchup for any team but Carolina has never come charging out of the gate under coach Ron Rivera. Carolina started 1-5 in 2011 and 1-6 last year. They’re currently 1-2 this year and we’re starting to see a pattern here. We don’t trust the Panthers on the road and particularly in what should be a close game–Carolina is 2-13 SU in games decided by a touchdown or less under Rivera. Carolina’s new offensive coordinator Mike Shula is just a bad fit for the team–he’s trying to implement a more conservative system in which Newton doesn’t run as much which takes away one of his most effective weapons.

Arizona does have a slew of defensive injuries but will get linebacker Darryl Washington back from suspension. Cardinals have won 10 of their last 14 home games and the only reason that they’re not favored here is that Carolina is a more ‘trendy’ team.