Cardinals look to get Conner involved, avoid slow start
ARIZONA (1-2) at CAROLINA (1-2)
Sunday, 4:05 p.m. EDT, Fox
OPENING LINE: Panthers by 1 1/2, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Cardinals 1-2, Carolina 1-2.
SERIES RECORD: Panthers lead 14-5.
LAST MEETING: Panthers beat Cardinals 34-10 at Nov. 14, 2021, in Arizona.
LAST WEEK: Cardinals lost 20-12 to the Rams; Panthers beat Saints 22-14.
CARDINALS OFFENSE: OVERALL (15), RUSH (17), PASS (12), SCORING (t-13).
CARDINAL DEFENSE: OVERALL (23), RUSH (t-11), PASS (30), SCORING (31).
PANTHERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (30), RUSH (14), PASS (31), SCORING (t-13).
PANTHERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (18), RUSH (22), PASS (13), SCORING (t-12).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Cardinals plus-2; Panthers even.
CARDINALS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Kyler Murray had some good moments Sunday against the Rams, finishing 37 of 58 passing for 314 yards, but the Cardinals still couldn’t find the end zone and settled for four Matt Prater field goals. Murray seems to be getting on the same page with WR Marquise Brown, his college teammate at Oklahoma, as the duo connected 14 times for 140 yards.
PANTHERS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Christian McCaffrey is hitting his stride with back-to-back 100-yard rushing games for the Panthers. After being held to 32 yards in the season opener, the 2019 All-Pro is now tied for fifth in the league in rushing with 243 yards and looking explosive, particularly when he gets in the open field.
KEY MATCHUP: Panthers QB Baker Mayfield vs. Cardinals secondary. Mayfield is off to a slow start and ranks 25th in the league in quarterback rating with only three TD passes in three games. The Panthers’ passing game is 31st in the league, and the team’s third down passing game has been poor. But Mayfield has a chance to get on track this week against the Cardinals, who are 30th in the league against the pass.
KEY INJURIES: Cardinals WR A.J. Green will be out indefinitely with a knee injury, while WR DeAndre Hopkins remains suspended for three more games. WRs Rondale Moore and Antoine Wesley are also dealing with injuries, leaving a stable of mostly smaller receivers such as Brown, Greg Dortch, Andre Baccellia and Andy Isabella, along with tight end Zach Ertz. Cardinals DL Rashard Lawrence had surgery on his hand and won’t play this week ... Carolina enters the game relatively healthy.
SERIES NOTES: The Panthers have owned the Cardinals through the years, winning 14 of 19 matchups overall, including the past six. Carolina has beaten Arizona in each of the past three seasons. Over the past six matchups, the Panthers haven’t scored fewer than 27 points.
STATS AND STUFF: Arizona has been outscored 56-13 in the first half of games this season. ... QB Kyler Murray is 2-0 in his career in head-to-head starts against Baker Mayfield. ... After scoring 18 touchdowns last season, Cardinals RB James Conner has had a slow start to the season with just 90 yards rushing. That’s largely due to the Cardinals falling behind in games and having to throw the ball to catch up. However, Conner has nine TDs in his past nine road games with Arizona, accumulating at least 50 yards from scrimmage in all of those games. ... Cardinals DE J.J. Watt could pose major problems for Panthers rookie LT Ickey Ekwonu, who struggled against elite pass rusher Myles Garrett in Week 1. ... The Panthers snapped a seven-game losing streak at home last week — and a nine-game skid overall — with a win over the Saints. ... Carolina’s defense had three takeaways against the Saints after getting none the first two weeks. ... In his first game with the Panthers, WR Laviska Shenault had two catches for 90 yards, including a 67-yard catch and run for a touchdown, sparking a win against New Orleans.
FANTASY TIP: WR D.J. Moore, who has had at least 1,150 yards receiving in each of the past three seasons, has just seven catches for 88 yards this season and one touchdown. He had great chemistry with Mayfield in training camp, and the thinking is he’s going to have a breakout game soon.
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