The Carolina Panthers are in the NFC Conference Championship Game for the first time in over a decade and the outcome of the game may lay squarely on the shoulders of the Panthers' secondary.
This group, led by Josh Norman, will be facing one of the best passing attacks in the league. They have an incredibly combination of talent at wide receiver with Larry Fitzgerald, Malcom Floyd and John Brown with a veteran quarterback in Carson Palmer who can move the ball around. The Cardinals finished second in the league in passing yards, third in passing touchdowns and gave up the fourth fewest sacks.
Meanwhile, the Panthers have been hit hard with injuries with the losses of Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere and replaced with veterans Cortland Finnegan and Robert McClain. The one thing that hasn't changed though is this defense does an excellent job of forcing interceptions and this could be the deciding factor on Sunday.
The Panthers led the league with 24 interceptions, seven of which was by Kurt Coleman and four by Josh Norman. Even the new starters have an interception each in limited action, with Finnegan grabbing his last week against the Seahawks.
Palmer has done an excellent job for most of the year protecting the ball with only 13 interceptions on the year. However, four of them have come in the last three games, including two last week against the Green Bay Packers.
The Panthers offense has shown all year they can put up points, finishing as the highest scoring team in the regular season with an average over 31 points per game. The Cardinals though finished second and less than a point per game behind the Panthers.
A strong game from the secondary, one that includes a few turnovers, should put Carolina in excellent position to earn their first trip to the Super Bowl since 2004.