Five to Watch: Cardinals @ Panthers

The Arizona Cardinals, as a whole, are under tremendous pressure when they kickoff in Carolina on Saturday. But the pressure is even greater for some key units and players. Jason Harris breaks down who or what will be the game breakers or the game makers in the NFC Divisional playoffs.

1. WR Larry Fitzgerald

With wide receiver Anquan Boldin questionable for Saturday's game against the Panthers with a hamstring injury, Fitzgerald should see plenty of double coverage. This hasn't been a problem so far for the Cardinals who are 3-1 this season without Boldin. In those four games Fitzgerald averaged five catches for 90 yards and a touchdown and a half. Saturday should be no different for Larry Franchise. In week eight when these two teams played, Fitzgerald caught seven balls for 115 yards. He is as advertised. You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him.

2. RB Edgerrin James

James remembers week eight. It was the last game he played before getting demoted for rookie fifth round pick Tim Hightower at mid season. James had just seven carries for 17 yards and a fumble. Since returning to the starting role late in the season, James has looked as fresh as ever getting the extra yardage he was failing to rack up earlier in the year.

Last week against the Atlanta Falcons, James carried the ball 16 times for 73 yards and caught a nine yard pass. If he can have a similar day the Cardinals should be in good position to win. James getting involved in the pass game could be the difference. The Panthers defense may not be expecting it.

3. Offensive Line

The Cardinals are one of just six teams to start the same offensive line all season. Their regular season chemistry has lead to early playoff success. The line did not allow a sack last week against the Atlanta Falcons. It was the fourth time this season the Cardinals have put up a goose egg in the opponent sack column. With running back Edgerrin James back from the dead, the offensive line has been reenergized in the run game as well. The panthers held the Cardinals rushing attack to 50 yards on 14 carries in week eight. The Cardinals cannot afford to become one dementional in the playoffs. It starts with the offensive line.

4. Rush Defense

Last week the Cardinals were able to shut down Michael Turner and the Atlanta Falcons' potent rushing attack. Turner was held to 42 yards on 18 carries and the team finished with 60 rushing yards total. An impressive accomplishment for an average Cardinals run defense considering the Falcons ranked second in rushing offense.

The job of stopping the run doesn't get any easier this week against the Panthers who run game ranks third in the league. In week eight against the Cardinals, the Panthers were still figuring out who they were as a team. They ran the ball 29 times and threw it 28.

As the season progressed running backs DeAngelo Williams and rookie Jonathan Stewart began imposing themselves on team's defenses. In their last game before the playoffs the panthers ran the ball 42 times and only threw it 20 times. It's no secret the Panthers want to run the ball. The defensive line is going to have to play big and stay fresh to withstand four quarters of pounding. Something they haven't been able to do traveling East.

5. K Neil Rackers

Coach Ken Whisenhunt may be taking blame for rushing Rackers to kick a 51-yard field goal but in the post season kickers are always under fire. Rackers has been excellent this year hitting on 92 percent of his field goals during the regular season. One long miss is ok but he better not make it a habit. Rackers in on thin ice after back-to-back seasons of a field goal percentage in the 70's. If he were to miss again this week and it cost the Cardinals the game things could get ugly. Fans in Arizona are growing accustom to winning, Anyone would hate to be the scapegoat for a premature ending to an outstanding season.

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