The NFL post-season kicks off with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and the Arizona Cardinals (11-5) flying into Carolina to take on Cam Newton, Kelvin Benjamin and the Panthers (7-8-1) who are almost a one touchdown favorite in the NFC Wild Card game.
A Closer Look At The Wild Card Weekend Arizona at Carolina Online Football Odds, Predictions & TV Schedule
Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers
Date: Jan. 3, 2015
Start Time: 4:20 p.m. ET
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Stadium Bank of America Stadium
TV Info: ESPN
Radio: Arizona Vs Carolina
Point Spread: Panthers -6.5
Game Total: 38
What can anyone say about the Carolina Panthers, who even with a losing record, still made the playoffs by getting hot exactly when season records no longer matter.
The Arizona Cardinals came out of the gates strong and were tops in the league for the majority of the season, but they are still the underdog in this matchup. If Carson Palmer was not lost to a season ending injury the Cardinals would be resting this week and waiting for their opponent in next week’s playoff tilts. Now Bruce Arians turns to a thrid string QB to lead them against the Panthers.
Arians confirmed Lindley will start @ Panthers. Lindley has lowest career passer rating for a playoff QB in 30+ years http://t.co/TBrBdYI3DY
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) January 1, 2015
Unfortunately for Arizona, momentum is not on its side. Losers of two in a row, the Cards have clearly seen better days.
— PFTonNBCSN (@PFTonNBCSN) December 31, 2014
The Panthers, on the other hand, closed out the regular season by winning four games in a row. To think this team didn’t win a game for two months at one point this season just blows my mind.
The Arizona Cardinals will win this NFC Wild Card game if
They stop Cam Newton, stop the run and keep the turnovers to a minimum!
If the Arizona Cardinals (11-5 SU, 11-5 ATS) want to win this wild card matchup, then they’re going to have to find a way to stop red-hot quarterback Cam Newton.
Cam Newton vs 4 or fewer pass rushers: 5.7 yds per dropback, 55.3 Total QBR. Newton vs 5+ rushers: 6.1 yds per dropback, 65.2 Total QBR.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 29, 2014
Newton has led Carolina to four straight wins while rushing for a combined 197 yards over his last three starts with one rushing score in each contest after racking up just two rushing touchdowns over his first 11 games.
The Cards will also need to stop Carolina’s overall rushing attack and they’ve struggled to stop the run recently. The Panthers have topped the 100-yard plateau a dozen times this season while racking up 200 rushing yards or more twice.
When Arizona allows 100 rushing yards this season, they’ve gone 2-4. When an opponent has topped the 200-yard plateau, Arizona is 0-2. Arizona also needs to keep the turnovers to a minimum against a Panthers defense that is on fire right now, ranking inside the top 10 in total defense over their last nine games.
The Carolina Panthers will win this NFC Wild Card game if
They harass Ryan Lindley and pound the Cardinals on the ground!
Carolina (7-8-1 SU, 8-8 ATS) has not allowed more than 17 points in any of their last four games and if they want to win this NFC wild card matchup, then they’re going to have to harass young quarterback Ryan Lindley.
— SundayNight Football (@SNFonNBC) January 2, 2015
While Lindley has given Arizona some hope with solid outings against Seattle and San Francisco in the finale, the fact of the matter is that Arizona lost both games handily and Lindley tossed more interceptions than touchdowns in both games. Arizona lost the turnover battle in each of their last three losses while Carolina won their own turnover battles in three of their last four games.
The Panthers also need to pound the Cardinals with their powerful rushing attack, particularly seeing how Arizona gave up 187 and 299 rushing yards in their last two games against Seattle and San Francisco, respectively.
Who will win this NFC Wild Card game?
As much as I’d like to pick the Arizona Cardinals to win this contest, I’m having a bit of a hard time seeing how Arizona is going to reach the 20-point plateau against Carolina. To repeat…the Panthers have not given up more than 17 points in winning their last four while Arizona has failed to score more than 18 points in each of their last five games.
I suspect that Carolina will get after Ryan Lindley and force the promising, but inexperienced signal-caller into one or two very costly turnovers that change the course of this contest.
While 53 percent of the betting public likes Arizona to cover the spread as nearly touchdown underdogs, I like Carolina to win – and narrowly cover the wild card betting line.
The Cardinals are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 playoff games and 9-3 ATS in their last 12 road games. The Panthers are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games in January and 5-2-1 ATS in their last 8 Saturday games. The underdog is 5-2 ATS in their last 7 meetings.