Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers Preview and Pick – NFC Divisional Playoffs

Arizona Cardinals (10-7) +10, 48 O/U at Carolina Panthers (12-4)
-10, 48 O/U, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., 8:15 PM
Eastern, Saturday, FOX

by Badger of

After winning their first home playoff game since the 1940s the Arizona Cardinals are rewarded with a long flight back to the dreaded
East Coast to take on the well-rested Carolina Panthers in an NFL
Divisional Round playoff game Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in

Arizona took a 30-17 lead early in the fourth quarter and hung on for
a 30-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the Wildcard Round last
weekend. Now they get the chance to enact revenge against the
Panthers, who beat them 27-23 back on October 26th on the same field
in Charlotte. However, the Cards are 0-5 when playing on the East
Coast this season, so theyll need to get past some mental hang-ups
as well as the power running attack of the Panthers.

The last time Carolina took the field they nearly gave away the game
and their playoff spot as well to their NFC South rival New Orleans
Saints. The Panthers nearly coughed up a 30-10 lead, but kicker John
Kasay drilled a 42-yard field goal with one second left on the clock
to win the game 33-31 and not only put Carolina in the playoffs, but
give them a week-one bye as well.

The Oddsmaker Sportsbook opened the game with Carolina as 9.5-
point home favorites, and early action has been mostly on the
Panthers causing the number to go up to 10-points at just about every
sportsbook on the planet. There are just a few exceptions, as some books still list the Panthers as 9.5-point favorites, while Five Dimes has moved Carolina all the way up to 11-point
favorites already.

The over/under total opened at 48 and has only gone up the hook to 48.5 at most offshore sportsbooks. The moneyline
lists the Panthers as -450 favorites, with the Cardinals catching
+350 as underdogs.

Offensively theres no secret to what each team is hoping to accomplish. The Panthers are going to pound the ball on the ground,
while the Cardinals are going to throw it around to all of their
playmakers on the outside.

Carolina won eight of their last 10 games played because of the breakout running of DeAngelo Williams. Williams had 178 yards in the
season finale versus the Saints, had 108 yards and four touchdowns in
the week 16 showdown versus the New York Giants, and had 186 yards
and two scores in a week 14 triumph over Tampa Bay. He is the main
reason the Panthers finished 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards per game
with a 152.2 average. When he wears down, the Panthers bring in
rookie Jonathan Stewart (835 yds., 4.6 ypc, 10 TD) and the team
barely misses a beat.

The Cardinals on the other hand like to ride the arm of veteran quarterback Kurt Warner. Warner threw for nearly 5,000 yards this
season, completed 66 percent of his passes and had 32 touchdowns.
With Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston as receivers,
its no wonder the Cards like to spread it out and throw it around.

True to form, in the October 26th meeting between these two the Cards
and Warner threw for 381 yards and 2 touchdowns on 49 attempts, while
the Panthers and Williams ran for 113 yards and score on 29 rushing
attempts. The game-changing play in the game however was a 65-yard
touchdown pass on a tightrope run down the sideline by Carolinas
Steve Smith.

Defensively theres really not much difference between these two
squads, as the Cardinals are actually 18th overall (331.5 ypg
allowed) while the Panthers are 19th (332.1 ypg). The two facets of
the game that will surely be tested by the opponent, the Cards have
the 16th-ranked run defense (110.2 ypg), while the Panthers have the
16th-ranked pass defense (212.6 ypg).

Last week the Cardinals defense held a similar power-running attack in the Falcons to just 60 yards (250 total yards) on the ground. The same cant be said for the Panthers though, as the Saints Drew Brees
carved their pass defense up to the tune of 386 yards and four scores.

If your looking for betting trends, the underdog is a solid 5-2 ATS
in the head-to-head series between these teams. The road team is also
5-2 ATS, and even though the Cards lost the game last time out, they
did cover the spread as Carolina was favored by 5-points in the first

Arizonas cover last time could be considered a fluke though, as the
Cards are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven games as the road
underdog, with the one being the Carolina game. However, Arizona is a
strong 6-0 ATS in their last six games played on Saturday, including
the first round win over Atlanta.

Carolina seems to kick it up a notch for bettors in the playoffs, as they are 6-1 ATS in the last seven playoff games. They are also
strong in Bank of America Stadium, with an 8-2-1 ATS record in their
last 11 games at home.

The over/under trends are hard to read. Arizona is 12-5 versus the total this season, and the over is 7-2 in Carolinas last nine
playoff games and 6-1 in their last seven overall, so the over looks
like an attractive bet. But its the under that is 11-4 in Carolinas
last 15 home games and its also 15-7 in the Panthers last 22 games
as a home favorite.

Badgers Pick: Early action on this game is heavy on Arizona (69% against the spread) and the over (93%), which is ironic because Im leaning in the opposite direction on both fronts. Arizona barely held on to beat
the Falcons at home, and we all know how well they play traveling to
the East a couple of time zones. Carolina will continue to pound the
ball and it will wear the Cards out late in the final quarter for a
backdoor cover. Take Carolina minus 10 and the under of 48.