TEMPE, Ariz. — When the NFL schedule came out in April, the Week 8 matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers looked like a premier game.Why would it have not been? The Panthers went 15-1 last season and reached the Super Bowl, while the Cardinals went 13-3 and fell to Carolina in the NFC Championship Game. Both were quite good last season, and were expected to once again be among the best in the league. Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact A look at the statistics would show some of the reasons for their struggles. In Carolina, a defense that ranked sixth last season in yards and points per game has fallen to 24th and 29th, respectively, while in Arizona, the Cardinals’ offense has fallen from No. 1 in the NFL in yards and No. 2 in points per game to eighth and 15th.Those, among other issues, may be symptoms, and while they surely help to explain the teams’ slow starts, the question of why remains.Why did the Panthers’ defense slip so far? Why have the Cardinals been unable to replicate last season’s success?Perhaps the preseason expectations were a bit too much to handle.“I think so,” Rivera said. “I think the one thing you have to be able to do is separate what people are expecting as opposed to what you are, more important than anything else.“Sometimes it creates a lot of outside noise that could get in the way as well. As coaches, it’s our job to make sure our guys are focused and moving forward.”Rivera may be onto something, though it’s important to note he can only speak for his own team. Posed with a similar question, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said pressure to succeed this season has had nothing to do with his team’s early struggles. Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires Comments Share “I don’t think that had any damn thing to do with us,” he said. “We had a young player that was put in a position and he failed. He gave up a touchdown. We missed a kick. I don’t think it had anything to do with our performance in Buffalo. And, we missed another kick or we’d be in first place.”Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly feels similarly about his own team.“I just think you look at some of the games we’ve played and we’ve been close in a lot of games,” he said. “It’s just that’s what the NFL is — it’s who can make a play at the end of the game and we just haven’t been able to do that.“We’ve been in a lot of games and you’ve just got to find a way at the end of the game to make something happen.”Of the Panther’s five loses, three have come by three points or less, while the Cardinals have fallen by two and four points while also tying a game they probably should have won.All that said, there is an old adage in the NFL that says a team is what its record indicates. If that’s the case, then neither the Panthers nor Cardinals are anything special.Arians’ perspective on his own team makes sense when you consider just how bullish everyone was with regards to the Super Bowl hype during the preseason. The expectations were embraced, because the belief was the team was certainly good enough to reach the big game. The caveat was that they would have to play well in order for it to happen. Then this season happened. Neither team got off to the kind of start that was predicted.The Panthers are a woeful 1-5, while the Cardinals are a pedestrian 3-3-1. Surprising?“Oh yeah. Most certainly,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “You’d like to believe that as well. Heck, the league thought that. We were the 4:30 game at one time, so we had an opportunity to do some good things and unfortunately that’s not it.”A few weeks ago, when the Panthers were 1-4 following a home loss to Tampa Bay and the Cardinals were 2-3 after a road win in San Francisco, the NFL elected to move the game from the primetime afternoon slot to a less-exciting morning window. It will instead feature the 4-2 Green Bay Packers at the 4-3 Atlanta Falcons.The NFL obviously wants to feature its best teams, and through seven weeks, neither the Panthers nor Cardinals can make a staunch claim that they belong in the conversation.The question is, why?While each team did lose some players from their 2015 rosters, conventional wisdom had each returning enough — with some key additions, too — to make you believe they were not going to take a step back. Just before the season the Las Vegas oddsmakers had them each at about 11/1 to win the Super Bowl, and Arizona was a popular pick to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LI in Houston. Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo Like the Panthers, the Cardinals also are not out of the running, which means the preseason expectations are still reachable. Arians said the path to get there has changed, and that’s true. But whereas Carolina maybe needed a chance to breathe, Arizona believes it just needed time.Since starting the season 1-3, the Cardinals have seen their record improve while playing a much better style of football in wins over the 49ers and Jets along with a tie to the Seahawks.“Every year you get a new football team,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “Last year, the expectation was for us to come back this year and win the Super Bowl, but we’ve got a new football team.“So it’s going to take us a couple weeks to kind of find our groove, to just get back comfortable. And I know — especially defensively — we had a lot of new faces, so it was going to take us a month or so to really get comfortable with each other, to trust each other, just to build that chemistry.”Follow Adam Green on Twitter Top Stories Just because they have not played well consistently does not mean there was a level of overconfidence based on the hype.“I don’t see it being a problem,” Cardinals QB Carson Palmer said. “I don’t feel like we’ve ever gone into a game or a week where we just felt like we’re going to line up and play and win. We understand anybody can beat you on any night or any day. So, I think we’ve done a good job, and B.A. reminds us all the time. He makes sure to throw out little one-liners and zingers to keep us grounded. He’s done a great job of that.”The way Arians sees it, his team has to expect to win, and win a lot.“You set a goal; you don’t talk about it every day,” he said. “You set a goal and then you go to work. That expectation never changes. Our expectations haven’t changed at all. Now, how we get there has changed.”The same can also be said for the Panthers, who even at 1-5 cannot be counted out in the mediocre NFC South. Remember, it was just two years ago when they won the division and reached the postseason with a 7-8-1 record, and it would probably not come as a shock to anyone to see them make a run by the time the season is over.
CONFLICTED GERMAN AUTOMAKERS ARGUE ABOUT HOW TO PRODUCE A ‘TESLA KILLER’It’s no secret that the legacy automakers are making the transition to electric vehicles only reluctantly, in response to regulatory pressure from governments and to competitive pressure from Tesla. Contrary to what many seem to believe, Big Auto’s reluctance to embrace EVs is not merely the usual corporate fear of the future, nor is it the result of any oil industry-fueled conspiracy (as far as we know). It’s a simple matter of money – there are good reasons to believe that electrification will take a major bite out of industry profits, as BMW and Daimler execs recently acknowledged.*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.Check Out These Stories: Der Spiegel Calls Tesla Biggest Concern For German Automakers Above: German automakers remain conflicted about how to transition factory production lines from gas-powered cars to EVs (Image: Werner Budding)Now Volkswagen has warned that its stated plan to offer an electrified version of each of its models will cost more than it estimated. VW previously predicted that the coming shift to battery power would cost some 20 billion euros ($23 billion). CEO Herbert Diess, in an interview published in VW’s internal newsletter, indicated that this figure was too low, but didn’t offer a new estimate. “The burden for our company, such as the cost of bringing to market electric cars, will be higher than expected,” Diess says. “This is particularly so since some of our competitors have been making more progress.”A recent article in the Financial Times discussed the challenges legacy carmakers are facing. Whereas industry disruptor Tesla started from a blank slate to design its vehicles, and has “bet the company” on EVs, incumbent OEMs can’t go down that road – the risks are too high. Analysts have warned that a substantial number of Germany’s 800,000 auto industry jobs could disappear along with the internal combustion engine.FT points out that VW, BMW and Daimler have each earmarked billions of euros for electric technology, but are taking different approaches – some automakers hope to build EVs using the same architecture as legacy vehicles, whereas others intend to introduce new platforms. The choice of strategy “will re-sort the carmakers in profitability,” says Christian Senger, head of the VW’s e-mobility line. “Those who [take] the hardest road will be more successful than the others.” German Automakers May Need To Take Notes To Compete With Tesla Above: VW’s ID concept car appears to be another unconventional design approach typically relegated to Big Auto’s electric car efforts (Image: Charged)BMW seems to be taking the opposite tack, touting the advantages of “flexible architecture” that can accommodate fossil, hybrid or electric powertrains. BMW plans to offer all its models with a choice of powertrain starting in 2021. “We can’t afford having two factories standing still,” says CEO Harald Krueger. “With a flexible approach you can always manage the capacity of your plants. But if you have a specific EV architecture, what do you with the old one? What do you do with the people?”Daimler is combining both approaches, designing purpose-built architecture for its EQ sub-brand while also setting up its production plants to accommodate all types of powertrains, including fuel cells. “We have hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric cars and maybe robo-taxis tomorrow,” says Daimler Production Chief Markus Schaefer. “It’s hard to predict volumes for the best way in an uncertain world, so this is the most efficient approach to supply the market.”Some analysts think the flexible approach is too complex in both design and production. “I don’t see how they can consolidate traditional platforms, from small hatchbacks to large SUVs, and at the same time try to include EVs in the equation,” says Pelham Smithers Analyst Julie Boote. “That’s incredibly complicated.” Author Liberty Access TechnologiesPosted on October 10, 2018Categories Electric Vehicle News As Tesla Surges Forward, Will German Automakers Up The EV Game? Above: In another revealing move, Audi decided no e-tron inventory for its US dealerships would be made available (Source: Charged / Image: Automobile Propre)Others see merit in the flexible approach, pointing out that it’s hard to predict how quickly the shift to electric cars will take place. “Most carmakers proceeding with EVs are following an ‘If you build it, they will come’ approach,” says Bernstein Analyst Max Warburton. “If you have a dedicated EV platform and the demand doesn’t come, you’ve lost a lot of money.”===Written by: Charles Morris; Source: Financial Times, Bloomberg*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers, free of charge. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX. Check out the site here. Source: Electric Vehicle News Above: Germany protects its car industry as EU goes for just 15% cut in CO2 car emissions by 2025 (Source: Transport & Environment / Image: Plugin Cars)Volkswagen is leveraging its scale advantage – earlier this year it awarded €20 billion worth of contracts for battery supplies as part of a plan to introduce 50 pure EVs by 2025. This represents an about-face from VW’s previous strategy – the e-Golf and e-Up, introduced in 2013, were basically existing models stuffed with batteries.“To make it a fully fledged electric car, you need to start with a battery pack between the wheels and then you build up the car,” Herbert Diess, CEO of the VW Group, told the FT. “Then you have an effective battery system, the range, and you get a lot of freedom for the design of the car, to make more interior space with the same footprint.” (His words echo what Tesla designer Von Holzhausen said back in 2011.)The first VW model designed this way, the ID Neo, is to come out late next year, the first of several models belonging to the ID electric sub-brand. Although recent reports suggest the program could be delayed.