Both clubs enters into today's game at Bank of America Stadium with high expectation. The Cardinals did not play particularly well down the stretch, but hope their first playoff victory in a decade over the Dolphins will serve as a catalyst in today game.
The Panthers on the other hand were victorious in eight of their last ten contests and believe their offensive balance, swarming aggressive defense and home field advantage will prove the difference in this match up.
Both teams feature veteran battle tested quarterback, two of the very best receivers in the game in the Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald, 96 receptions for 1,431 yards and 14.9 yards per reception and the Panthers little big man Steve Smith, 78 receptions for 1,421 yards and a remarkable 18.2 yard average in just 14 games!
The Cardinals have a slight edge in the overall passing game based on their depth, but could enter this contest minus Anquan Boldin (89 receptions for 1038 yards on the season).
But this is where the similarities end. The Cardinals just have not shown consistency running the football, while the Panthers outstanding running back DeAngelo Williams (1515) and rookie Jonathan Stewart (836) remarkably averaged better than five yards per carry in 457 carries on the season! On the defensive side of the ball both clubs remarkably surrendered on average 331 yards of offense per game, but the Panthers defense allowed 97 fewer points on the season!
Maybe the biggest factor in this contest is the Panthers perfect eight and zero record on their home turf while the Cardinals again struggled on the road winning three while dropping five, including a 27 to 23 loss to the Panthers in week eight.
The coaching edge has to go to the Panthers based on their playoff experience, although the Cardinals Ken Whisenhunt has extensive playoff experience as a member of the Steelers coaching staff.
It should be a competitive hard fought contest, but in the end there are just too many things in my mind pointing toward a Panthers victory.
Panthers 27 – Cardinals 17