Five fearless predictions for Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game against the Arizona Cardinals:
1. Chandler Jones will bring the heat.
It’s going to be 80 degrees at kickoff, which will feel like 10 a.m. on the Cardinals’ body clocks. If the Panthers establish their running game and start fast, it would help counter a salty Arizona pass rush. But if the Cards go up early, they’ll go after Cam Newton from all angles. Even when Arizona isn’t blitzing, the Panthers – still minus left tackle Michael Oher – likely won’t have an answer for Chandler Jones.
2. See Cam Newton run.
The reigning league MVP had only two carries against New Orleans in his first game back from the concussion protocol. But Newton insisted this week he’s not changing the way he plays. That’s good because he’s going to need his legs to escape Jones (five sacks) and Markus Golden (six sacks).
3. KK Short will reintroduce himself to Carson Palmer.
Kawann Short is among the many defensive linemen who have been M.I.A. for the Panthers. The starting front four has combined for 2.5 sacks, with defensive end Kony Ealy contributing none. Short, a Pro Bowl defensive tackle, had a strip-sack against Palmer in the NFC Championship Game in January. Look for Short to make at least one big play against a Cardinals offense that has given up 20 sacks.
4. Chandler Catanzaro will miss a field goal.
Arizona coach Bruce Arians says he’s sticking with Catanzaro, despite the former Clemson kicker missing two field goals that would have won games (see also Gano, Graham). Catanzaro’s latest miss was a 24-yarder with 3:26 left in overtime during last week’s 6-6 tie with Seattle. Catanzaro will add another miss to the ledger Sunday, but it won’t cost the Cards the game.
5. Double moves will be double trouble for young corners.
The Panthers’ cornerback rotation is still a mess. Second-round pick James Bradberry hasn’t fully recovered from a turf toe that sidelined him the past two games. Hoping for any help they can get, the Panthers will plug former Bucs’ DB Leonard Johnson at nickel seven months after Achilles surgery. Arians mentioned to Charlotte media how the Panthers’ corners are susceptible to double moves. He’ll get to see that firsthand. Cardinals 27, Panthers 20.
Cardinals at Panthers
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
Sunday, 1 p.m.