Week 15 Preview: Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers

Season Records:

Cardinals: 4-9, 4th in NFC West, Last Week: W vs. Denver, 43-13

Panthers: 1-12, 4th in NFC South, Last Week: L vs. Atlanta, 31-10

Gametime:

Sunday, December 19th, 1:00 p.m. EST, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC

A Pair of Rookie Quarterbacks go to Battle:

So a couple of last place teams with rookie quarterbacks will face off at Bank of America Stadium this Sunday.  This match up is a far cry from the 08-09 divisional playoff game between these two squads when Kurt Warner and the Cardinals’ defense shocked the NFL with a stunning 33-13 victory over Jake Delhomme and the heavily favored Panthers.  These are two starkly different teams now that are just trying to navigate their respective ways through a thoroughly disappointing season.

The Cardinals will send out their rookie quarterback, John Skelton, for his second start and first road start of his career.  Skelton was solid throwing the ball last week against the Broncos.  The rookie’s day started off pretty shaky as he didn’t complete any of his first seven attempts.  After the rocky start, Skelton settled down and finished the day by completing 15 of 30 passes for 146 yards, which is nothing dazzling, but he also didn’t turn the ball over and wasn’t sacked, which is an accomplishment for a rookie making his first start.  In addition, Skelton showed a good deal of synergy with Larry Fitzgerald, as Fitz grabbed six balls for 72 yards.  The Cardinals will certainly look to build on Skelton’s positive start this week, but he shouldn’t be expected to go out there and win the game for the Cards.  “I think what I really liked was his demeanor and how he handled himself,” Whisenhunt said.  “He was able to handle (the pressure) and make some throws.  There’s potential there to grow into that position and that’s the exciting part of it.”  Making his first road start will be a great opportunity for growth.  The fact that it will be against a 1-12 team that’s a mess right now should be as comfortable a proposition as a rookie quarterback could want.  Considering Tim Hightower’s impressive 18 carry, 148 yards, and 2 TD performance last week, Arizona should look to get things moving on the ground in order to make Skelton’s job easier.  If the Cards, however, get stuck in a lot of third and long situations, which happens often unfortunately, Skelton and the Cardinals could be in for a rough day.  Beanie Wells presumably has recovered from a high fever that plagued him during game time last weekend and should be much more involved in the offense.

Jimmy Clausen has had a pretty rough go of it with his team.  The Golden Domer is a long way from South Bend, where he achieved a great deal of individual success, though the Irish underachieved as a team under Clausen’s tenure.  Apparently, Clausen has problems off the field as well as on it.  The quarterback apologized to linebacker Jon Beason for his 14/24 for 107 yards performance in last week’s loss to Atlanta.  Wide receiver Steve Smith didn’t appreciate that, a fact which he made clear by stating that, “You should apologize to the people in the huddle with you.  He has a lot to learn.  He ain’t at Notre Dame anymore, that’s for sure.”  The Panthers aren’t without talent, though.  Jonathan Stewart has returned and he and fellow running back Mike Goodson combined for 203 of the Panthers’ season-high 212 rushing yards last week against a pretty stout defense.  In addition, the Cardinals rank 30th in the NFL in run defense.

It’s pretty hard to believe, but after this weekend the Arizona Cardinals could be only 1.0 game out of first place in the NFC West with a 5-9 record.  San Francisco takes on San Diego tonight on Thursday Night Football, which will obviously be a tough game for the 49ers.  The Rams welcome the Chiefs to town, which will also be a tough battle for the Rams, even though they are at home.  Finally, the Seahawks host the Falcons, who may be the best team in the NFC.  As a result, the Cardinals could very well be the only team that comes out of Week 15 with a win.  The standings would be as follows:

  1. St.  Louis Rams: 6-8, 0 GB, 2-2 division record
  2. Seattle Seahawks: 6-8, 0 GB, 3-2 division record
  3. San Francisco 49ers: 5-9, 3-1 division record
  4. Arizona Cardinals: 5-9, 1-4 division record

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