Who: Arizona Cardinals (11-5) at Carolina Panthers (7-8-1)
What: NFL Playoffs--Wild Card Round
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
When: Saturday, January 3rd at 4:35 PM
Line: CAR -6.5
Passing: Cam Newton (3,127 yards, 18 TDs) Vs Ryan Lindley (562 yards, 2 TDs)
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart (809 yards, 3 TDs) Vs Stepfan Taylor (208 yards, 1 TDs)
Receiving: Kelvin Benjamin (1,008 yards, 9 TDs) Vs Michael Floyd (841 yards, 6 TDs)
Playoffs? Playoffs? Are you talking about the playoffs? You kiddin’ me? Yep, seven wins, eight losses, and a tie, but we are talking about the Panthers in the playoffs. And to make it even sweeter, it’s a home postseason game against an injury-depleted and slouching Arizona Cardinals team.
Indeed, the Cardinals and Panthers come into this one by way of vastly different seasons. Arizona, who started the year off by winning nine of their first ten games, has been inconsistent and unimpressive recently, losing their last two contests. While much of that has been due to a plethora of injuries to offensive skill players such as Carson Palmer, Andre Ellington, and Drew Stanton, Arizona's "stellar" defense also hasn't been living up to their reputation as of late, giving up 35 points to Seattle and another 20 to San Francisco in consecutive weeks to end the season. Meanwhile, as you probably know, the Panthers are currently one of the hottest teams in the NFL by way of a four-game winning streak. Carolina has gone from 3-8-1 to 7-8-1 and NFC South Champions with wins over New Orleans, Tampa, Cleveland, and Atlanta since Week 13.
It was announced Friday that Ryan Lindley will be Arizona's starter for tonight's game. Lindley, who first started on Week 16 against Seattle after an injury to then-starter Drew Stanton, threw for 306 yards, two touchdowns, and three picks in last Sunday's loss to the 49ers.
Kerwynn Williams and Stepfan Taylor have carried the rushing load for the Cards since Ellington's injury and are expected to be platoon Saturday's duties out of the back field tonight in Charlotte.
The Last Time Out
Carolina was simply dominant in their 34-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons Dome last Sunday, earning their second NFC South crown in as many years. The story of the game was really the Panthers’ dominant defense that scored two touchdowns via pick sixes by Roman Harper and Tre Boston. Meanwhile, Carolina’s offense found no trouble moving the ball against a tired Atlanta D, picking up 306 total yards and 2 TDs.
I think everything's there for the Panthers to dominate this matchup. They're healthy, loose, and confident and playing a team with limited talent on the offensive side of the ball. A rocking Bank of America Stadium won't hurt either. Carolina wins 27-13.