The three biggest things to watch for Sunday when the Cardinals play the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.:
K1 Takes Care Of The Ball
Kliff Kingsbury estimated that losing the turnover battle 3-0 meant you had about a five percent chance to win. While some surface research looks like it's probably more like 10 or 12 percent, the point is not lost. Kyler Murray can't be throwing three interceptions in a game, not if he wants to track as one of the better quarterbacks in the game. In truth, it's probably an outlier rather than a concern, and Murray is in a place to get better against a Panthers defense that looks a lot different (read: not as scary) than the one that made his life difficult a season ago. The last time Murray threw three picks in a game was against the Steelers in 2019; the next week, he looked excellent in beating the Browns. It's a good bounceback situation again here.
Wither D-Hop, And Finding Fitz
DeAndre Hopkins is spectacular, and the Cardinals need him -- "Need him bad," in the words of Larry Fitzgerald. Hopkins' ankle kept him out of practice this week, and while D-Hop's history is that he doesn't miss games, it will still be an interesting Sunday morning before inactives are announced. With or without Nuk, more Larry Fitzgerald seems crucial. He can help in those moments where things get bogged down, tangibly and emotionally. One catch – for no yards – isn't the ticket. It's hard to believe that after that game, Kliff Kingsbury won't do whatever it takes to get Fitz as part of things again. Fitzgerald was important in the first half against San Francisco and had seven catches against Washington. He can still produce. And there are reasons to make that happen.
Safeties In Numbers, And Simmons
There are plenty of other teams with injury issues far worse than the Cardinals. But to lose heat-seeking missile Budda Baker this week after thumb surgery – when Jalen Thompson is already out and Chris Banjo could be as well – the Cards are in a scary position on the back end. It helps that the Panthers do not have their main offensive weapon, running back Christian McCaffery, but how the Cards juggle their secondary will be something to watch – as will be if the Panthers try to exploit it. Deionte Thompson and Curtis Riley will be the starters. Isaiah Simmons won't be at safety -- it doesn't seem like -- but how might Simmons fit in to a particular package or two in this matchup? Cornerback could be impacted too, after Dre Kirkpatrick showed up on the injury report this week.