Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals: Storylines, prediction for a game which has many off-field elements to it

What are the main storylines for this Week 10 Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals matchup, and what is our prediction for how it may go?

This week’s Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals matchup could break the record for sideline shots, and the unknowns surrounding some elements make it a tough game in terms of a prediction. Let’s take a look at some of the storylines for an intriguing matchup between the Panthers and Cardinals, examine the current NFL odds, and make a prediction for how the game could go.

Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals predictions | Storylines to watch in Week 10

It has been quite the week for both the Cardinals and Panthers franchises, with injuries and action off the field making the headlines. The injuries to Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins have dominated the headlines in Arizona, while the loss of Chase Edmonds could have a long-term ripple effect.

Meanwhile, in Carolina, the return of Cam Newton after Sam Darnold was ruled out with a fracture in his scapula has been one of the feel-good stories of the NFL season. While we may not see Newton on the field this week, expect to see plenty of him on this week’s broadcast. If both he and Murray spend extended time off the field, we could see as much of the sidelines on the broadcast as we do the action on the field.

What role will Cam Newton play for the Panthers?

It has been made clear that P.J. Walker is the starter this week, but Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady has made it clear that Newton could have a role to play. What that role will be — given how late he signed — is very much an unknown. Maybe it will be goal-line or third-down packages, or maybe Newton has a set of plays that he comes in and executes to try and keep the Cardinals off balance.

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The one thing that would be strange would be for the Panthers to expose Newton to a load of hits in his first game. It seems odd to have him carry the ball on the goal line and risk him getting injured in a game they are expected to lose. Therefore, the talk of potentially having Newton play might just all be a bluff to keep the Cardinals’ defense on their toes. If this game were in Carolina, then we would almost certainly see him. But on the road, maybe it is all just a big trick.

How much will the Cardinals be willing to risk Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins in Week 10?

This is the question that makes this Panthers vs. Cardinals matchup so hard to make a prediction for. Murray’s return to practice on Friday has opened up the possibility he is active despite his ankle injury. Murray is apparently pushing for them to make it a game-time decision, but the feeling is that Colt McCoy will start.

Tougher tests await down the road, including next week against the Seahawks. With Walker making his first NFL start, the Panthers should not provide a stern test to the Cardinals. If they win this game but lose Murray for an extended period by rushing him onto the field, serious questions would be raised about Kliff Kingsbury’s judgment.

Dressing Murray for the game but still starting McCoy would be a potential option. They could then turn to Murray if they desperately need the spark. However, they need to find the balance between having that option and not having McCoy constantly looking over his shoulder at the sideline every time a play goes wrong.

It’s the same situation with Hopkins. The Cardinals should have enough firepower without him. However, with A.J. Green returning from a COVID-related absence and Rondale Moore having missed the majority of this week, they might want the safety net of Hopkins. Hamstring injuries are tricky, and the last thing they want is Hopkins to aggravate it. The current feeling appears to be that Hopkins and Murray will likely be inactive for Week 10.

Will the loss of Chase Edmonds hurt the Cardinals?

Last Sunday, the Cardinals lost the RB who has started all nine of their games this season. Edmonds has a high ankle sprain but has not yet been placed on injured reserve, suggesting Arizona believes he could be back after their Week 12 bye. Edmonds’ loss takes away a player with 76 carries and 37 targets this season. That is certainly not insignificant.

This injury to Edmonds makes the decision to acquire James Conner this offseason look very smart. This year, Conner has led the team in carries with 115. However, his role in the receiving game has been limited. His 5 targets in Week 9 doubled his season total, but the question is whether that was just an emergency situation.

Eno Benjamin impressed in the secondary role on Sunday, but he’s also yet to see a target this season. With Jonathan Ward ruled out through concussion, Benjamin may have to step up into that pass-catching role.

One name to look out for if he’s healthy enough is Moore. The utility receiver could be an intriguing option lining up in the backfield and making plays in the receiving game. His limited nature this week will have hampered that, but it could be an intriguing way to get the explosive playmaker more touches.

Can P.J. Walker put down a marker in his second NFL start?

Let’s take a second to just consider the emotional roller coaster Walker has been on this week. When the Panthers added Matt Barkley, it seemed as though this team would be Walker’s for the foreseeable future. Walker was looking at a potential 4-6 week audition to prove he deserves to be a starter in the NFL.

Then, the Panthers signed the 2015 MVP and their former franchise QB in Newton to end the week. Just like that, Walker went from a 4-6 week audition window to essentially having one start to showcase his talents.

That has been the story of Walker’s NFL career since impressing in the XFL. Of his seven career appearances, just one has been as a starter. In that game, the Panthers were unlikely to have designed an entire set of plays around Walker’s skills. Now we’re looking at that situation again. Everyone is expecting Newton to start in Week 11, so why would Brady completely revamp the offense for Walker, only to do it again next week for Newton?

That leaves Walker likely running a hybrid playbook this week against one of the best defenses in the league. The Cardinals’ defense is allowing just 5.6 net yards per attempt and have given up only 13 passing touchdowns to 7 interceptions. It will be tough for Walker, but this is his chance to prove he deserves a spot in the NFL. He needs to try and take it.

Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals betting line and prediction

On Saturday, the latest lines for this Panthers at Cardinals game had Arizona as 10.5-point favorites. Assuming that Murray will be active, the line likely will not move much away from that. The problem becomes, will Murray actually step onto the field, or is he just a decoy for the Panthers’ defense to worry about?

If Murray plays and is not restricted, covering 10.5 points should be relatively easy. The Panthers have had a bizarre week, and you could forgive them for being distracted. If McCoy starts, then covering is still in play. McCoy was efficient last week and should be again this week.

The problem is the unknown. If Murray plays, will he be restricted? Will the Panthers be invigorated or distracted by the return of Newton? Will Walker’s play be inspired by the presence of the returning hero, or will he try to force it too much knowing this might be his one shot?

The result should not be in doubt this week, but the magnitude of that result is a little murky. The inclination is that the Cardinals should win by 1-2 touchdowns, but so much depends on whether we see the XFL or NFL version of P.J. Walker.

Panthers vs. Cardinals Prediction: Cardinals 31, Panthers 20

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