Last year, the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals were the two best teams in the NFC. They went a combined 28-4 and squared off in the NFC Championship, with the Panthers advancing to Super Bowl 50.
That seems like a long time ago.
The Panthers and Cardinals are both 1-3 and have looked out of sorts pretty much all season. But which one is in worse shape?
“I’m going to go with the Panthers for one reason: the defense,” NFL on FOX analyst Charles Davis said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Last year, Carolina was terrific on defense, and it took a Denver defense to tap them out in the Super Bowl. You remember that day it felt like Carolina got nothing done, yet at the end of the game, they’re still in it. Why? Because of Carolina’s defense.They played their hearts out that day. They just got beat by a better defense. Not the offense. A better defense beat them that day.”
The Panthers lost to the Broncos, 24-10, but were expected to be right back in the thick of things this season. After narrowly losing to Denver in their season-opener, however, the Panthers have been a hot mess. Yes, they beat San Francisco, 46-27, but they looked helpless against the Vikings and Falcons, losing 22-10 and 48-33 in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively.
Arizona, meanwhile, has lost to New England, Buffalo and Los Angeles.
Carolina (27.3) and Arizona (23.0) rank sixth and 14th, respectively, in scoring offense, but the Cardinals are have been vastly better on defense. They rank 11th in the league with 20.0 points allowed per game.
Carolina ranks 28th with 29.5.
“So these are two really high-powered offenses,” Davis said. “But Arizona’s defense is still hanging in there. Carolina’s defense, it’s scary right now – especially the back end.”
The Panthers had no answers in Atlanta on Sunday, as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones became the first 500-300 tandem in NFL history.
Sorry, Panthers fans, but Josh Norman ain’t walking through that door.
“I know Josh Norman is getting a lot of run on this thing, just sipping his tea and laughing at the whole thing,” Davis said. “But it just tells you Carolina puts their money in the front seven and thinks they can get by in the back part. Julio Jones was going to shred just about anyone yesterday, but I think that defensively, Arizona is hanging in there a little bit better.”
Unfortunately, both teams have uncertainty at quarterback, as Carson Palmer and Cam Newton are both in concussion protocol. Their availability for Week 5 is unknown.
The Cardinals play the 49ers (1-3) in San Francisco this Thursday, while the Panthers host the Buccaneers (1-3) on Monday Night Football.
“I think Carolina is in a little bit more trouble (than Arizona) just because of where their defense is right now,” Davis said. “And that surprises me.”