Tagged in: Carolina Panthers

LB Irvin to make season debut for Panthers

Just a week removed from one of the best pass-rushing performances in franchise history, the defensive front that produced six sacks of eight total sacks against Arizona is getting a boost.

Head coach Ron Rivera announced on Thursday that defensive end Bruce Irvin will make his Panthers debut on Sunday against the Texans.

Irvin missed the first three games of the season after suffering a hamstring injury during preseason practice.

“Having watched him today in practice, I feel very comfortable with having him out there,” Rivera said. “He’ll play on Sunday, so pretty excited about that. He had a good day and it was a lot of fun to watch, it really was.”

Last week against the Cardinals, the Panthers were without longtime defensive tackle Kawann Short, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. As a result, rookies along the defensive front, like edge rushers Brian Burns and Christian Miller, stepped into the spotlight, as well as veteran defensive end Mario Addison. But as impressive as the young guys have been, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said there’s just something different about lining up next to an eight-year veteran.

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“He’s a vet,” McCoy said of Irvin. “His mind, just overall, his experience. The young guys have been doing great, but it’ll be great to have another vet out there that’s put in his time in the league. It’ll help out a lot, big time.”

It’s not just the big guys up front who are ready to have Irvin back. Linebacker Luke Kuechly said he’s excited to see the veteran return.

“Bruce has been waiting to come back, he’s worked real hard to get back,” Kuechly said. “When you bring a guy like that in who’s got great energy, I think guys are excited to have him back. He brings energy, brings some speed off the edge. He’s a real physical player and I think he’s going to do a really good job for us.”

Rivera said he expects the unit to take a few plays to get used to having a new player in the mix, but once the defense does adjust, Irvin’s presence will benefit everyone.

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Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

 Arizona Cardinals at Carolina PanthersCheck WagerWeb and find the best betting site!!!!

While everyone is focused on the other conference championship featuring the rivalry of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the NFC title game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers has what it takes to grab the spotlight this Sunday.

The Panthers have been superb defensively all season long, and when that defense is tested by one of the league’s best offenses from the Cardinals, it’s a kind of game that shouldn’t be missed.

The Arizona Cardinals hope to reach their first Super Bowl since the 2008 season. Carson Palmer is completing 61 percent of his passes for 349 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Palmer has six touchdown passes in his last three games. Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown have combined for 258 receiving yards and one touchdown while Michael Floyd has three receptions. The Arizona Cardinals ground game is averaging 40 yards per contest, and David Johnson leads the way with 35 yards on 15 carries. Defensively, Arizona is allowing 20 points and 386 yards per game. Tony Jefferson leads the Cardinals with nine tackles, Dwight Freeney has one sack and Jerraud Powers has two pass deflections.

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The Carolina Panthers look for their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2003 season. Cam Newton is completing 72.7 percent of his passes for 161 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. Newton has three touchdown passes in his last three games. Greg Olsen and Jerricho Cotchery have combined for 99 receiving yards and one touchdown while Ed Dickson has two receptions. The Carolina Panthers ground game is averaging 144 yards per contest, and Jonathan Stewart leads the way with 106 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, Carolina is allowing 24 points and 403 yards per game. Luke Kuechly leads the Panthers with 11 tackles, Josh Norman has a sack and Robert McClain has one pass deflection. Foswhitt Whittaker is questionable and Jared Allen is doubtful.

The Arizona Cardinals struggled to run the ball well against the Green Bay Packers in their playoff game last week. It is fair to ask if they will be able to do anything against Carolina, considering their defense. Center Lyle Sendlein knows they have to do better.

He was asked if Green Bay really stacked the box against them in their game on Saturday. Sendlein said “not really.”

“We should have had a little more success in the run game against Green Bay,” he explained. “We have things in the game plan for when they do stack the box, and we still didn’t execute so it’s something if we want to keep playing, we’ve got to improve our run game.”

And they have themselves a challenge in Carolina, where the Panthers are the league’s fourth-best defense against the rush.

“We see them as the best defense in the league,” Sendlein said. “Their front seven is something special, so we’ll have our challenges this week.”

Head coach Bruce Arians indicated they don’t need to run the ball to take the pressure off the passing game, “because that’s who we are on offense,” but they need to do it more effectively

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Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys

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The undefeated Carolina Panthers are at the Dallas Cowboys in a Thanksgiving Day special featuring marquee quarterbacks Cam Newton and Tony Romo, to say nothing of the Greg Hardy connection. Kickoff is at 4:30 p.m. Thursday

Carolina is one of just two undefeated teams remaining in the NFL and quarterback Cam Newton is being considered for the MVP due to his outstanding play this season. Newton has always been a strong runner at quarterback, but this season his passing is much improved.

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The Cowboys now have Tony Romo back under center after missing 7 games, Dallas is four games under .500 but is still in the running to win the NFC East, trailing the New York Giants by just two games.

Tony Romo led Dallas to its first win in 8 games last weekend defeating Miami 24-14.

Carolina beat two opponents in the NFC East – Washington and Philadelphia – handily and brings the league’s third highest scoring offense, but faces four of their next five games away from home.

The Carolina defense, albeit not as strong as previous years, is rounding into form and has a strong front seven against the run.

Greg Hardy the defensive end for Dallas will be facing his former team for just the first time since he left last offseason. Carolina will have its talented defensive end Charles Johnson activated to play and give Romo a hard time with his pass rush.

Dallas will look to run the ball with Darren McFadden to take the early pressure off Romo and open passing lanes for him to hit Dez Bryant down field and Jason Witten over the middle.

Dallas has won five straight games outright against Carolina. However, the two teams have not played head to head since October of 2012.

This is probably one of those games that has a score of something like 7-6 after three quarters, as the two defenses battle it out.

Three keys to watch

Can the Panthers keep Hardy off Newton?

This is the game everyone circled when schedules were released in April. The return of Tony Romo makes it more interesting, but all eyes will be on the Cowboys defensive end.

Forcing a Romo moment.

Romo remains one of the game’s great gunslingers. He’s never met a throwing window he didn’t think he could zip a pass through. That has led to plenty of late-game drama – good and bad.

Linebacker play will be key

There might be more interesting matchups (start with Dez Bryant vs. Josh Norman), but this game could be decided by which team best stops the run. Both teams rank among the league’s top eight rushing offenses, with the Panthers’ Jonathan Stewart and Dallas’ Darren McFadden both coming off 100-yard games

 

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