A Comprehensive Look at the Carolina Panthers Defense
The Carolina Panthers have a terrific front seven. Defensive tackle Kawann Short is the leader of a terrifying pass rush, having picked up 11 sacks during the regular season all by himself. He didn’t sack Russell Wilson in the divisional round, but Wilson is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the NFL. Carson Palmer, the Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback, prefers to move around inside a clean pocket. His scramble during the overtime period, when he found Larry Fitzgerald wide open down the field, was definitely not the way that he prefers to do business, and the Panthers could definitely take advantage of this.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 19, 2016
Carolina’s defense: a turnover machine
No defense forced more turnovers than the Carolina Panthers did during the regular season, as they took the ball away from the opposition 39 times — or about 2 ½ times per game. They added to that total against the Seahawks, snatching two interceptions out of the air. The linebacking pair of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, both of whom have been named to the Pro Bowl, anchor the defensive line, and Kuechly’s pick-six against the SEahawks was an early momentum shift toward the home team.
What about the secondary?
The Arizona Cardinals are a pass-first team, and they like to keep the opposition in nickel packages. This means that Kuechly and Davis may have a ton of field to cover during this game, as they have to fall into coverage again and again. If the Panthers’ defensive line cannot create pressure against what is a terrific Arizona offensive line, Palmer could slice and dice the defense, as Larry Fitzgerald will certainly find ways to get open — his playoff resume is one of the best in NFL history as far as wide receivers go.
Is there a home field advantage?
Carolina is 4-2 all time when playing playoff games at home — while the Cardinals are just 2-6 on the road in the Super Bowl era when in the playoffs (and if you remember that this is the 50th Super Bowl, and the Cardinals have been in the NFL for decades before that era started, you’ll remember that playoff success is not part of the Cardinals’ pedigree). However, the Cardinals have played solid both home and away this year. The Panthers’ defense will need to remain focused for 60 minutes if they want to make it to Super Bowl 50.