Arizona Cardinals-Carolina Panthers: Three Matchups to Watch

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Last Word On Pro Football, by Lenny Letcher

This week’s game between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers is not as intriguing of a matchup as it was when the schedule was announced. The rematch of the NFC Championship game from last year was highly anticipated coming into this season. With Arizona at .500 and the Panthers having only one win on the season, both teams have been disappointing. While these results are not what most pundits anticipated, these are the current situations these franchises find themselves in. Despite the lack of team success, however, there is no shortage of star power that will be on the field on Sunday to provide some very exciting matchups.

Arizona Cardinals-Carolina Panthers: Three Matchups to Watch

David Johnson vs. Luke Kuechly

This will be one of the premiere matchups the NFL has to offer this weekend. David Johnson leads the league in yards from scrimmage and is dangerous every time he touches the ball. With 1,004 total yards (681 rushing, 323 receiving) and eight touchdowns through only seven games, he is putting together a truly dominant season, and is a nightmare for any opposing defense.

Luke Kuechly is one of the best cover linebackers in the league and can create turnovers singlehandedly. Will the Cardinals be able to get Johnson into space and let him create the chunk gains that we are accustomed to seeing, or will Kuechly be all over the field slowing him down?

Chandler Jones vs. Donald Hawkins

Chandler Jones has been a terror all season long. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones leads all edge defenders with 38 hurries this year. Who is Donald Hawkins? He is a second-year tackle out of Texas that will be filling in for injured left tackle Michael Oher. Hawkins will be challenged with keeping Jones out of the backfield and disrupting the Panthers passing attack. This is no easy task, even for a seasoned veteran. Clearly, the Panthers will have to make creative use of double team to slow the pass rushing prowess Jones boasts. Either way, this should prove to be an advantageous matchup for the Cardinals.

Tony Jefferson vs. Greg Olsen

Tony Jefferson is playing the best football of his career. He is the fourth-ranked safety as rated by PFF. He won’t be the lone Cardinal tasked with covering Greg Olsen, but he will be leaned on heavily in that role. Olsen is a very dangerous receiving threat for Cam Newton and this matchup could determine the game.

Final Thoughts

Both the Cardinals and Panthers mathematically can still make the playoffs. If Carolina loses this game, they will most likely be eliminated before the midway point of the season. If the Cardinals lose, they will still have a fighting chance to make the playoffs but it will most like be out of their control. They would likely need a lot of help to get into the postseason. Both of these franchises are desperate and will be motivated to prove they are better than their record indicates. As we reach approach the halfway point of the season, neither of these franchises can afford a misstep.