After a pair of close losses to start the season, a blowout win and a bye week have rejuvenated the Carolina Panthers, who will try to get back to .500 when they travel to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The Panthers might be playing for second in the NFC South, as they're already 2 1/2 games behind undefeated New Orleans in the loss column. The Cardinals also are chasing an undefeated team, sitting two games behind Seattle in the NFC West.
Carolina had a week off after routing the Giants 38-0 in Week 3 and coach Ron Rivera thinks his team's performance was overlooked because of the focus on New York's struggles. "You'd like to say we deserve a bit more attention, but that's all right," Rivera told reporters. "Believe me, I've got no problem flying under the radar. To me, the more important thing is how our players feel about themselves." Arizona got back to .500 with a 13-10 win over Tampa Bay last week despite an offensive performance that coach Bruce Arians described as "putrid."
TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Panthers -1.5. O/U: 42.
ABOUT PANTHERS (1-2): After losing its first two games by a total of six points, Carolina turned in a dominant performance against the Giants, rolling up 402 total yards and holding New York to 150. The offense struggled against a stiff Seattle defense in the opener, but DeAngelo Williams and Cam Newton have powered an impressive ground attack the past two games. The defense had its problems in the two losses but tied a franchise-record with seven sacks and forced three turnovers against New York.
ABOUT CARDINALS (2-2): Arians' turnaround of Arizona's offense isn't going as planned and the running game has been especially punchless, ranking 26th in the league with 78.8 yards per game. If not for Patrick Peterson's two interceptions, the Cardinals might have lost to Tampa Bay and rookie quarterback Mike Glennon. The defense has been dominant against the run - ranking second in the league - but will have its work cut out against a Panthers team averaging 151 yards on the ground, though unit should be bolstered by the return of linebacker Daryl Washington after he missed the first four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
1. The Cardinals traded OL Levi Brown to Pittsburgh on Wednesday in exchange for a conditional draft pick. Bradley Sowell will take over for Brown at left tackle.
2. Williams has rushed for 417 yards and two TDs in four meetings with Arizona, including three 100-yard games.
3. The Cardinals snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Panthers with a 28-21 win in the most recent meeting in 2011.
PREDICTION: Panthers 23, Cardinals 20