Cardinals @ Panthers
The Cardinals came into this game as the favorite, expected to course-correct after a speed bump against the Lions last week, but the Panthers controlled this game almost from the start. The Panthers punted only once, and they scored on three of their first four drives, with the only hiccup being a Teddy Bridgewater interception that gave the Cardinals a short field and led to the first Arizona touchdown. Carolina was able to consistently sustain long drives, relying on an effective running game and underneath passing attack that both took advantage of some weak tackling by Arizona. Meanwhile, the Cardinals offense struggled as their gameplan of repeatedly throwing wide receiver screens was ineffective. Even while trailing for most of the game, the Cardinals were either unwilling or unable to take shots down the field, and their short passing attack was unable to pick up enough first downs to get them into scoring position. The Panthers won 31-21 in a game that never really seemed in doubt for them.
Kyler Murray: 24/31, 133 yards, 3 TDs, 1 sack | 6 carries, 78 yards
Let’s start with the good; Kyler Murray had a 48-yard run and didn’t have many incompletions.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 4, 2020
Murray continued to look good as a runner, but on his long run, he did opt to slide when he still had a step on almost all of the defenders. I’m sure he’s coached to do everything he can to prevent taking any hits but it is frustrating to watch if he’s on your fantasy team, because pretty frequently he’s giving up a chance to get extra yards or make someone miss. Those extra yards would have come in handy today, as Murray rarely threw the ball more than a few yards past the line of scrimmage. This seemed to be a function of the gameplan, as the Cardinals called a lot of wide receiver screens and other plays that were designed to get the ball out quickly. Murray took a few deeper shots, including a completion up the seam to Dan Arnold and a throw to DeAndre Hopkins that Hopkins was unable to keep in bounds, but for some reason, Arizona preferred to take the ball out of his hands quickly instead of having him sit in the pocket and try to take advantage of a Carolina defense that hadn’t looked good through three weeks. Three short touchdowns, and the rushing yards, led to Murray having a solid fantasy performance today and he’s a no-doubt starter going forward.
Kenyan Drake: 13 carries, 35 yards
Chase Edmonds: 4 carries, 16 yards | 6 targets, 5 receptions, 24 yards, 1 TD
Kenyan Drake left the game with an injury in the 4th quarter after taking a hard hit mid-spin-move, but he wasn’t much of a factor prior to exiting. Drake never had room to run on his carries, frequently being met in the backfield, and on plays where he ran a route, it never looked like Murray was looking his way. Given how many times Murray threw the ball close to the line of scrimmage it’s not a great sign that Drake was unable to get involved. Chase Edmonds came in for the two-minute drill to end the first half, took some red-zone work, and was involved in the passing game. Unlike Drake, it seemed like Edmonds had some plays designed to get him the ball as a receiver. He was wide open in the flat to walk in for his touchdown reception, and it was clear that Arizona prefers using him as their receiver out of the backfield. Drake isn’t getting consistent receiving work, doesn’t get every red zone touch, competes with his own quarterback for rushing touchdowns, and is banged up. Based on where you had to draft him you probably have to keep starting Drake, assuming he’s healthy, but unless his usage changes dramatically I would be looking to trade him the first opportunity you get to sell high. Edmonds is worth picking up to hold on to even if Drake’s injury isn’t serious, as he looks good and might have a chance to carve out a bigger share of the touches going forward.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
DeAndre Hopkins: 9 targets, 7 receptions, 41 yards
Christian Kirk: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 19 yards, 1 TD
Larry Fitzgerald: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 4 yards
Andy Isabella: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 0 yards
Dan Arnold: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 39 yards
Jordan Thomas: 1 target, 1 reception, 3 yards, 1 TD
DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk were both questionable coming into this game, and while they both played it seemed like they may have been a bit limited by their injuries. Hopkins was targeted deep once and made an awesome catch, but the play resulted in an incompletion because he had gone out of bounds before making the catch. Otherwise, he did all of his work underneath and he looked fine with the ball in his hands, but the lack of targets down the field, especially in a game where his team spent most of the day trailing, leads me to think the Cardinals wanted to be careful with him. Kirk also stayed closer to the line than normal, apart from a nice fade route he ran that drew a defensive pass interference. He also cashed in a short touchdown, but apart from those plays, he was quiet.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 4, 2020
Andy Isabella dropped what would have been an impressive diving catch, but his fantasy value is minimal while Kirk and Hopkins are in the lineup. Dan Arnold had one of the longer plays of the day for the Cardinals when he made a catch in traffic over the middle of the field and he seems to be getting progressively more involved in the offense. Overall, it was tough to find much to evaluate for the receivers because they weren’t really running routes down the field very often, as one of them would get the ball right away and the rest would be blocking. Hopkins remains a must-start, Kirk is worth holding onto, and the rest of this passing offense can be ignored for now.
Teddy Bridgewater: 26/37, 276 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT | 6 carries, 32 yards, 1 TD
Teddy Bridgewater had a nice game, with the clear highlight being this touchdown run:
— QB List (@TheQBlist) October 4, 2020
Bridgewater seems like he’s getting more comfortable using his surgically-repaired leg to extend plays and pick up yards, which is a great sign for both the Panthers and his fantasy outlook. As a passer, he was good but not great, mostly making good decisions and placing the ball well. His interception was a result of him getting hit as he threw, although it probably wasn’t a great decision, and he was fortunate on two other throws to not be intercepted including a poorly thrown ball to the endzone that the defender was just unable to come down with in bounds. Aside from those few mistakes though he looked solid attacking the Cardinals on short and intermediate routes, showing good zip on his throws and leading his receivers to allow them to pick up yards after the catch. Bridgewater is a decent streaming option going forward, and if he continues to show he’s willing to run he has upside as a back-end QB1.
Mike Davis: 16 carries, 84 yards, 1 TD | 6 targets, 5 receptions, 27 yards
Reggie Bonnafon: 10 carries, 53 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 18 yards, 1 TD
Mike Davis briefly left this game with an injury, which may have contributed to Reggie Bonnafon having some increased involvement as the game wore on. Both running backs looked good against a Cardinals defense that really struggled to make the first tackle today. Davis had one run where he ran straight through a Chandler Jones tackle, and he was routinely able to run through the first contact and pick up additional yards.
Honestly this play is so lit pic.twitter.com/blQGKUeh6O
— IG MikeDavisRB (@MikeDavisRB) October 5, 2020
His patience behind the line was impressive and he looked good as a receiver out of the backfield, so if you picked him up you should keep starting him until Christian McCaffrey returns. Bonnafon did vulture a short touchdown, and looked good in his own right, but didn’t appear as decisive with his cuts as Davis and is clearly the backup here.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Robby Anderson: 11 targets, 8 receptions, 99 yards
D.J. Moore: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 49 yards
Curtis Samuel: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 51 yards |
Chris Manhertz: 1 target, 1 reception, 17 yards
Ian Thomas: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 5 yards, 1 TD
Robby Anderson was the best receiver for the Panthers today. Bridgewater missed him on a deep pass to the end zone which prevented Anderson from having a monster day, but Anderson was still Bridgewater’s clear favorite target today. He was good after the catch, taking one short pass for a nice gain after jumping over a tackler and also taking advantage of strong blocking on this screen pass:
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 4, 2020
Clearly, the Panthers view him as more than just a deep threat and it’s possible that, in a season where the quarterback came in with no pre-established connection with any of his receivers, Anderson is the top guy here. D.J. Moore committed a pass interference penalty but made up for it with a nice stiff arm on Patrick Peterson that allowed Moore to take a drag route for a 12-yard gain. The Cardinals didn’t have Peterson follow Moore the whole game but they did give him a cushion at the line of scrimmage that allowed Moore to easily get open underneath on a few plays. Curtis Samuel could have had a big day if Bridgewater hadn’t missed him down the sideline for what would have been a long touchdown. He’s behind both Anderson and Moore, as well as the running backs, in the pecking order for touches and it’s difficult to trust him in a fantasy lineup. Tight end Chris Manhertz almost made a highlight-reel catch for a touchdown over a defensive back but was able to draw defensive pass interference on the play.
-Dan Adams (@dadams0323)