Cardinals Game Plan for Carolina Panthers

Here is a breakdown of key matchups, the Cardinals schemes and inury updates for Saturday's NFC Division matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers.

GAME PLAN: Offensively, the Cardinals' strength is the pass, but the run game has improved over the past two games (197 yards). That's helped the team's play-action passes. Carolina concentrated on stopping the run when the teams met earlier this season, and the Cardinals hurt them through the air. That will be harder to do if receiver Anquan Boldin doesn't play because of a hamstring injury.

Defensively, the Cardinals have proven they can play the run well when committed. Against the Falcons last week, they did a nice job of varying the look of the defensive front, using three, four and five linemen. Again, the emphasis this week will be on discipline in staying in gaps and preventing cutback runs, something at which Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams excels.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

Cardinals OTs Mike Gandy and Levi Brown vs. Panthers DE Julius Peppers -- Gandy will have most of the responsibility and the Cardinals don't mind that. Gandy has played well in his two years with the team and did an excellent job last week against the Falcons' John Abraham. Peppers didn't have a sack against the Cardinals earlier this season, even though Kurt Warner passed 49 times.

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Panthers CB Chris Gamble: Gamble doesn't usually cover just one receiver the whole game, but the Panthers might consider it. Anquan Boldin is questionable because of a hamstring injury, so the Panthers might concentrate their resources on controlling Fitzgerald. That's a difficult task because Fitzgerald makes plays despite tight coverage.

Cardinals ILB Karlos Dansby vs. Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams: Dansby had one of his best games ever last week against the Falcons. He finished with eight tackles, including three for losses, and was a big factor in limiting Michael Turner to 42 yards, none of which came in the second half. If the Panthers can't get a lineman on Dansby, he will be disruptive.

INJURY IMPACT:

WR Anquan Boldin (hamstring) likely will be questionable up until game time. He hasn't practiced this week, but he has worked out with a trainer, doing agility drills and riding an exercise bike during practice. His backup, Steve Breaston, has played well throughout the season, but Boldin would be missed dearly if he can't play.

--LB/DE Travis LaBoy is still hampered by an ankle injury that caused him to miss the past three games. He is practicing this week but it's always questionable how long he can hold up.

--TE Leonard Pope didn't play last week because of a left knee sprain, but he's practicing this week. Pope isn't a big part of the offense, and Stephen Spach has moved past him into the starting role.


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