Alarm bells often sound when an NFL team goes winless through the first two weeks of the season, but there seems to be a more serene feeling in Arizona.
The Cardinals have a tie instead of two losses, which helps, and the overall level of competitiveness has been a marked improvement from 2018.
If rookie quarterback Kyler Murray continues to make strides and the Cardinals (0-1-1) remain in games, it could portend a bright future. However, this rosy feeling could also dissipate if things don't go well on Sunday.
Quarterback Cam Newton (foot) isn't playing for the Panthers, which has made the Cardinals the favorites for the first time since last November against the Raiders. While coach Kliff Kingsbury and Murray have lived up to expectations so far, that first win has remained elusive.
"I think the effort has been there, the resiliency, the mental toughness, all those things," Kingsbury said. "We just have to find a way to get it done."
Murray completed 25-of-40 passes for 349 yards in last week's 23-17 loss to the Ravens, but the team bogged down on three of its four trips inside the 5. Even though Murray's disgust with losing is no secret, he has noticed the progress.
"I know the narrative around the world is how bad we were last year, but for us to be where we are now with a new coach, new quarterback, new system, I think we're really close," Murray said. "Obviously, it's going to take time, but I think we just have to keep working hard, and we'll see."
Despite just entering the NFL, Murray has more starts under his belt than Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen, who will take the reins with Newton sidelined. Murray and Allen battled for the Texas A&M starting quarterback job in 2015 and will compete again Sunday.
Allen's lone NFL start was an impressive one, as he threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns while adding a rushing score in a road win last year against the Saints. He was one of the top recruits in the country coming out of Scottsdale Desert Mountain High School but went undrafted after a mediocre college career.
Allen alternated between unemployment, the practice squad and the active roster as a rookie but held off third-round pick Will Grier for the backup job in the preseason to get this chance.
"He's a talent," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "He's very functional. He has a good arm, he's mobile, he has great poise in the pocket."
While Allen has been impressive in his limited professional work, this still seems like a favorable matchup for the Cardinals defense.
The Panthers defense is talented, so Murray will also be tested. He has not been rattled in the first two games, and Kingsbury is hoping his third outing can continue the positive trend.
"He's progressing the way I anticipated," Kingsbury said. "Because he is who he is and he's so talented, there's a very high expectation, but he's still a rookie quarterback. Not many rookie quarterbacks have been able to come in and play at a super high level. We're trying to do that. We know we don't have time to waste. He's the guy. We feel like we have a good team around him, so we're trying to expedite that."
DANIELS PROMOTED TO ACTIVE ROSTER
Tight end Darrell Daniels was elevated from the practice squad to the active roster on Saturday. Guard Jeremy Vujnovich was released in a corresponding move.
Images from practice at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center