The NFL Playoffs are here! All the luxuries of the regular season, like there being a next week, or a next game are over. It’s put up or shut up time. While, the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks wait for their turn next week. The Panthers, Cardinals, Cowboys, and Lions have a little work to do. This 5 Question 5 Answer period will preview each game and point out what each team needs to do to survive and advance. First up:
CARDINALS at PANTHERS
Q 1: Can Ryan Lindley be effective enough for the Cards to win the game, and if so how can he do it?
A: Yes. Problem is, most of the ingredients needed to make that a reality, the Cardinals probably don’t have. The injury situation for Arizona has them at a serious disadvantage. Even against a team like Carolina that comes in with a sub .500 record. Besides, the injuries to Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, the player Bruce Arians misses most on offense is Andre Ellington. The do-it-all running back would be a nice safety blanket for Lindley with his running and receiving abilities. Larry Fitzgerald, is capable of being a safety blanket from his receiver position. But, he’s been up and down all season. The Cardinals are clearly going to have rely on their defense, and hope that rookie John Brown, or Michael Floyd can somehow make a couple of big plays in the passing game. Other than that, it’s set up to be a long day for the Cardinals offense.
Q2: How big is the return of DeAngelo Williams for the Panthers offense?
A: Very. Jonathan Stewart has run the ball well enough in Williams absence. But, Williams is unquestionably the main man in the back field. The Cardinals D will have it’s moments and cause problems for Cam Newton. It will be vitally important that Williams and Stewart have a good day. The Panthers have put up some points in recent weeks, but this is the playoffs. The team that runs the ball better today will win this game.
Q3: Is Cam Newton finally coming of age?
A: Slowly but surely. I am one that still believes Newton can be an elite NFL QB. Considering the weapons he has at his disposal, he’s done quite well. Losing Steve Smith was huge, and the Panthers really haven’t replaced him yet. Kelvin Benjamin, is making strides as a rookie, however. Benjamin, gives Cam a tall, athletic guy that he can throw the ball up to in tight situations. Tight end Greg Olsen, is still the go-to-guy. He’ll need to provide big plays of his own for the Panthers to be successful.
Q4: Player(s) that needs to make most impact for each team?
A: Arizona – Patrick Peterson, Alex Okafor. The Cardinals shutdown corner needs to have a big day. A big day would be a pick or two, and maybe a pick six or a huge play that gives the Cards a short field. Okafor, who leads Arizona with 8 sacks needs to provide the pressure on Newton that could cause a mistake. Field position will be huge in this game where the weather conditions won’t be good. Any help from the Cards D would be huge for Lindley and the their chances to win the game.
Carolina – Cam Newton. I know we’ve mentioned his name already. But, he is the face of this team. In the win last week at Atlanta, Newton only threw for 114 yards. However, he was mistake free. If that’s the case today, it’s hard to imagine Lindley and the Cardinals being successful. Cam doesn’t have to be a star. He just has to be solid.
Q5: Should Logan Thomas be the starter instead of Lindley?
A: Debatable. Thomas had his moments in preseason, but played very little in the absence of Palmer and Stanton. Lindley, hasn’t looked very good in games against Seattle and San Fran. So, I think Thomas should have been given a long look. If nothing else, he could add the element of being able to make plays with his feet to the table. But, it’s hard for me to question anything Arians does right now. He’s made all the right calls to get Arizona to this point. Let’s see if he can pull another stunner today to get the Cards to the divisional round.