By Danny Cox
The Carolina Panthers didn’t get to the number one seed in the NFL in 2015 by chance, they are an extremely good team that has a lot of talent and knows how to win games. In every single team though, there are faults, and the Arizona Cardinals will have to exploit those weaknesses and crack those faults in the NFC Championship Game.
During the regular season, the Panthers racked up a record of 15-1 and it was impressively done. In the Divisional Round, it appeared as if the Panthers were going to blow out the Seattle Seahawks, but the second half almost did them in. That is something that’s happened quite often this season and it has made the Panthers appear very vulnerable and have to scramble to hold onto victories.
If they slack off against the Cardinals, it could cost them this time around.
Carolina Panthers on Offense
Cam Newton is just hard to stop and there is not much else to really needs to be said about it. He’s strong, elusive, accurate, and a great leader. Tight end Greg Olsen is his primary target and he’s a big guy that can be anywhere on the field that he needs to be and get through opposing defense like they aren’t even there.
The running game was expected to suffer this year with the loss of DeAngelo Williams, but Jonathan Stewart has impressed and shocked a lot of people. A lot of that comes with him staying healthy and being able to do what needs to be done, but the scrambling ability of Newton can not be underestimated or ignored.
Carolina Panthers on Defense
The Panthers are a sack-happy team and it showed during the season as the team racked up 44 total. In the Divisional Round game alone, they took down quarterback Russell Wilson five times and deliver constant pressure into the offensive backfield of opposing teams.
Carolina is also a team that likes to cause turnovers and knows how to do it. During the regular season, they had 24 interceptions and forced 24 fumbles, 15 of which they recovered. Carson Palmer needs to keep both his eyes and have others watching linebacker Luke Kuechly as well because he is a beast and one of the best players in the league at causing havoc.
Carolina Panthers’ Players to Watch
Offensively, running back Jonathan Stewart has really come about this season as the primary rusher for the Panthers and he’s proven himself. He became the first back to go over 100 yards rushing against the Seahawks in 27 games. Small and strong rushes are his forceful suit, but he can also break it open for the long run and Arizona needs to contain him all day.
On defense, defensive tackle Kawann Short will need to have two and maybe sometimes three Cardinals on him all day. He has 11 sacks in the regular season and forced three fumbles while tormenting opposing quarterbacks. He’s big and he’s fast and he is extremely hard to stop.
The Arizona Cardinals have what it takes to get to Super Bowl 50, and it’s extremely possible. The Carolina Panthers have some weaknesses and one big fault in that they take their foot off the gas pedal when they get ahead. If they do that against the Cardinals, Arizona could very well make them pay for it.
As for Arizona? They don’t want to even allow the game to get to that point, and they have what it takes to get ahead early and make the Panthers play catch-up.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.