When the Panthers visit the Cardinals on Sunday, it’s a tale of two highly drafted quarterbacks, one an MVP candidate, while the other may be in his final season as a starter. And both are hurt, although the degrees of those injuries are also quite different.
The Sam Darnold experiment is over in Carolina. Not officially yet. He is still the Panthers quarterback when healthy. But he won’t be healthy for a number of weeks, and by then, head coach Matt Rhule may have changed his mind.
Along with his three interceptions last week and 11 interceptions for the season, Darnold has a fractured scapula. He is now out for the foreseeable future, which will spare Rhule the tough decision to bench him, and it will spare Darnold the humiliation.
In steps P.J. Walker, who played his college football at Temple, and first made a name for himself with the Houston Roughnecks of the XFL. He was the first former XFL player to sign an NFL contract when he joined the Panthers last season.
Walker played for Rhule at Temple and knows the offense well, which might give him a leg up on some of the other quarterbacks pressed into injury service this year. He also started a game last year and got a win against Detroit.
Walker has thrown 15 passes this season in relief of an injured Darnold, but only three of those passes have been completed. And now he gets the best team in the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals.
While Darnold is out of action because of his injury, Kyler Murray is day-to-day with his.
Murray was a late scratch against the 49ers, which gave the start at San Francisco to Colt McCoy, who delivered the easy victory. He completed 85 percent of his passes for 249 yards and a touchdown.
The reason our look ahead to this weekend is talking about McCoy is that even though the ankle of Murray is said to be improving, he is not a guarantee to play. His game relies heavily on having healthy ankles, and it’s entirely possible that before kickoff on Sunday, the Cardinals decide that the long-term advantages of a healthy Murray outweigh the short-term advantages of having him play.
So as we get closer to Sunday’s afternoon kickoff in Arizona, keep your eyes peeled. There may be Murray news that alters the way you feel about this bet.
Honestly, with or without Murray, the Cardinals are a good bet to cover. If Murray plays, he will be hobbled, which changes the Arizona offense. If McCoy plays, we’ll see the same efficiency that we saw a week ago in San Francisco.
The same can be said for DeAndre Hopkins. He was absent against the 49ers, so Christian Kirk stepped up and had a big game. If Hopkins is once again out because of his hamstring, the Cardinals have plenty of weapons to fill the void.
No matter the Arizona offensive lineup, against a struggling Panthers team starting an inexperienced quarterback, the Cardinals are the safer bet to cover.
Carolina simply doesn’t score enough points to make any over bet on them worthwhile. In nine games this season, the Panthers have gone under in seven of them, including the last three straight. And they are finishing under by a lot of points.
Last week the Panthers-Patriots was 11 points under, and the week before that, the Panthers-Falcons was under by 14.
Even the Cardinals have only gone over in four of nine games. The under here is the much smarter play.
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