Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread – NFC Wildcard Game

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2016 NFC Championship Game

Arizona Cardinals(11-5SU,11-5ATS) vs.Carolina Panthers(7-8-1SU,8-8 ATS)
NFL Playoffs–Wildcard Round
Date and Time:Saturday, January 3, 2015 at 4:20PM EST
Where:Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
by Scott,NFL Football Handicapper,

Point Spread:ARI +4.5/CAR -4.5
Over/Under Total:38

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In wild card playoff action, the Arizona Cardinals come to Charlotte to face the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers. Both teams are being overlooked–Carolina with its sub-.500 record and Arizona with their third-string quarterback. For all their faults, both teams are just two wins away from the NFC Championship game.

With 4 losses in their last 6 games, Arizona isnt exactly flying high, even with an impressive 11-5 record. A slew of injuries have hurt, but the loss of Carson Palmer and his backup Drew Stanton have them digging pretty deep into the barrel, with Ryan Lindley now under center. On Sunday, they lost to the 49ers, 20-17. Lindley threw for 316 yards and two TD passes, but threw three costly interceptions. At the same time, it was a positive sign to see him getting the offense moving, despite the turnovers and only coming up with 17 points of scoring.

Carolina is the most-streaky team in the NFL, but fortunately for them, they got hot just in time to win their division and to carry some optimism into the postseason. Sure, theyre only a 7-win team, but theyve won 4 straight in impressive fashion. It was hard to not be impressed by their 34-3 road win over Atlanta on Sunday in a winner-take-all game. Its striking how they go from hot and cold in such drastic fashion. From last year to early this season, they won 13 of 14 games. They bottomed out to the point where they only won one of their next 10 games. Now theyve righted the ship once again with 4 straight wins.

Carolina has seen its defense get its act together. With some suspensions and injuries, they were only a shadow of their prior selves for a big part of the season. In their last 4 games, they have allowed a paltry 43 combined points and are at least starting to resemble the top unit from 2013. Other things that help are QB Cam Newton knuckling down and getting better, while RB Jonathan Stewart has blossomed at just the right time, giving the Panthers some potential in the run-game. And for all their apparent sluggishness in the pass-game, they do have a pair of 1000-yard receivers in Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen.

Its easy to dismiss Carolina, but that could be a miscalculation. Theyre playing a lot better than some teams in the postseason. Sure, they benefitted from the NFC South being an anomaly this season, where all teams in the division just happened to have bad seasons. In any other division, theyd have been an afterthought. But one shouldnt be so quick to dismiss a team that did a lot of things right in the last quarter of the season.

Its difficult for the Cardinals right now, as they slumped to the finish line. Not being able to beat a slip-sliding San Francisco team on Sunday wasnt a positive sign, though the Niners were looking to send their coach off on a positive note. But theyll be facing an even more-urgent Panthers team on Saturday, one that is trying to win for reasons that go beyond mere sentimentality.

But for those not ready to give up on the Cardinals, its understandable. Maybe its their coaching, the way they seem to really play as a team, or how much adversity theyve already managed to overcome. But its just hard to picture a team making a deep playoff run with the likes of Ryan Lindley as their quarterback. Not to mention their top running back, Andre Ellington, also being out with a bunch of other key cogs also missing.

What the Cardinals do have going for them is some decent offensive weapons. RB Kerwynn Williams has been surprisingly effective with Ellington out. Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald can be very productive and make big catches at the most opportune times. And with others like WR John Brown, RB Stepfan Taylor, and TE John Carlson, maybe they can come together. And its not like beating Carolina is some kind of herculean task. The Cardinals are likely no longer capable of making a deep run, but that doesnt mean they cant beat the Panthers.

The Cardinals have only scored 52 points combined in their last 4 games. But the defense hasnt been all that bad. They did give up 35 to a peaking Seattle team, but held the Chiefs to 14, the Rams to 6, and the Niners to 20 points. The Carolina offense is nothing special. Could this be a game where the Zona D shines? Its not the most consistent group, but Arizona has managed to keep a lid on some pretty good offenses this season.

Other than the overall won-loss record, Carolina carries a lot of advantages into this game. Theyre on a hot streak. Theyre at home. Personnel-wise, they are more intact. And they have a QB who knows what its like to play in big games. But I think Arizonas heart, combined with a lot of intangibles, will allow them to cover the spread, with a good chance of winning the game.

Scott’sPick to Cover the Point Spread:Im betting on the Arizona Cardinals plus 4.5 points. Bet this game and ALL of your college/pro football bets at discounted odds! It’ll save you BIG money! Stop laying -110; start laying only -105 TODAY at the web’s best sportsbook: 5Dimes.