Panthers vs. Cardinals 2013 game preview: Arizona and Carolina continue quests for a playoff spot

Christian Petersen

The Panthers will travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals in Week 5.

The Cardinals will host the Panthers in an NFC conference battle between two teams hoping to make the playoffs after long droughts. Arizona enters Week 5 after winning a tight road game against the Buccaneers and are currently 2-2. The Panthers are coming off a bye and are currently 1-2 after destroying the Giants in Week 3. Both teams will be looking to extend their respective winning streaks on Sunday.

Meet the Cardinals

The Cardinals have been up-and-down so far this season and are frankly lucky to be 2-2 after a last-minute, comeback victory over the lowly Buccaneers. The connection between quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been a success but the Cardinals have to protect both to avoid more losses. The team's offensive line has been erratic for several years and traded left tackle Levi Brown to the Steelers on Wednesday. With the offensive line in flux, Palmer will have to get the ball out quick against the Panthers, who have Greg Hardy, Star Lotulelei and Charles Johnson looking to take down the passer on Sunday.

Meet the Panthers

The Panthers travel to Arizona well-rested and confident after a Week 3 win over the Giants in which everything went well for Carolina. Quarterback Cam Newton was successful in the air and on ground against New York and will look to bring that same style of play on Sunday against Arizona. Running back DeAngelo Williams has also played well and will continue to tote the rock for the Panthers in Week 5. Newton will need to get the ball to tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver Steve Smith in order to create running lanes for Williams on Sunday against the Cardinals.

Local Takes: Cardinals

According to Jess Root of Revenge of the Birds, the Cardinals have been plagued by injuries at linebacker recently:

It isn't a good year to play outside linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals. They now have four at the position on season-ending injured reserve. After Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander and Alex Okafor were placed there last week, newly signed Vic So'oto was added to the list with a chest injury he suffered against the Tamp Bay Buccaneers.

Local Takes: Panthers

James Dator of Cat Scratch Reader hopes the Panthers find their identity in Week 5:

Sunday's game is another barometer for the Carolina Panthers, which really shouldn't be happening in week five of the regular season -- but it's a byproduct of a team without a clear identity. Weeks one and two we saw a ground-heavy offense with few offensive risks, followed by a week three game full of risks and big plays.

It's a question of desire vs. results. Ron Rivera might want a low-risk, conservative football team who grinds down the clock -- but that's not the team he has. Hopefully the bye week gave him time to reflect on his players are realize that wins will come from letting the team operate outside his comfort zone. It's not easy to cede control like that, but making this Cam's team is the only way the Panthers will win.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Revenge of the BirdsCat Scratch Reader, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@revengeofbirds

@senorjessroot

@CatScratchReadr

@bdubsmitty

@James_Dator

Prediction

Odds

The Cardinals are favored by 1.5 points against the Panthers at home, according to Odds Shark.

Next Week

In Week 6, the Cardinals will travel to San Francisco to face the 49ers. Next up for the Panthers is a visit to Minnesota to play the Vikings.

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Eugene Monroe traded to Ravens | Steelers get Levi Brown

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