By: Emily Musella
Kickoff: Sunday, September 22nd, 4:05 p.m. EST State Farm Stadium
Odds: Panthers (-3.5)
Initially, this game swayed me in favor of the Carolina Panthers to notch a first win of their season, but the recent injury of QB Cam Newton who is officially ruled out, changes my prediction. Granted you should never discredit a team’s ability to adjust without a major starter, I believe the Arizona Cardinals secure the W in this week 3 matchup.
For starters, Kyler Murray is finally getting himself comfortable and composed in the backfield. Though the Cardinals lost last week against the Ravens, Murray put up an impressive 349 yards on a tough Ravens defense. The running game will look to establish themselves this game against a 26th ranked run defense Panthers squad. For RB David Johnson, this matchup could be his breakout game that he desperately needs. Could this motivation credit Johnson to 100 yds on the ground?
The largest adjustment necessary for the Cardinals is their defense to not allow excessive down the field plays. With Kyle Allen’s arm, the Cardinals D could get torched if they don’t cover their targets. At the start of the season, the Cardinals defense ranked 23rd which is not encouraging, but each week proves a new opportunity for that dismal number to change.
Flip to the Carolina Panthers as young Kyle Allen fills in for injured Cam Newton. The biggest offensive weapon for the Panthers in this game will not be the heroic antics of Super Cam, but rather their RB superstar Christian McCafferty. This man can do everything necessary in the backfield. The Cardinals will have their hands full solely with McCafferty as the Panthers will feed him the ball an absurd amount of times.
The most important element for the Panthers to focus on besides protecting Kyle Allen against sack-master Cardinals Chandler Jones, would be for the Panthers to pressure Kyler Murray to make rookie mistakes. These younger players, though they have exceptional skills, can fold under pressure if it is applied properly. This matchup will surely be one to remember as Allen considers this a home game since he grew up in the old stomping grounds of Scottsdale, AZ.
Prediction time, I like the Kyler Murray-led Cardinals to win this matchup as their offensive weaponry manages to win by at least 6 points on Sunday.
Week 3 is ready to roll and so are these two blood-thirsty teams as they look for their FIRST win of the season. Are you ready football fans?