In the first game of this year’s NFL playoffs, the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers will host the 11-5 Arizona Cardinals. It seems odd that a team with a losing record would even make the playoffs, let alone have a home game, but that’s the NFC South this season for you.
This will be a very interesting matchup based on how both these teams have been playing lately. The Cardinals were arguably considered the best team in the NFL in the first half of the season, but ever since Carson Palmer suffered a torn ACL that ended his season back in Week 10, they just haven’t looked the same.
The Panthers, on the other hand, have been on fire lately. After losing six straight games in the middle of the season, it looked like their season was over. However, they got their act together and won their final four games which put them back on the map and ultimately allowed them to claim the division title. They got hot at the right time, and regardless of their record, they are a force to be reckoned with in the NFC as the league enters the postseason.
It’s no secret that the Cardinals have struggled offensively in the latter half of the season. A lot of this, of course, is attributed to Palmer’s injury. It’s still unknown whether the QB this weekend will be Drew Stanton or Ryan Lindley, but whoever it is will need to carry this team on his shoulders. I believe this may be too much to ask of either of them.
With a healthy Cam Newton playing well and the momentum they have going into this game, I believe the Panthers will come out confident at home and take care of the Cardinals to move on to the divisional round.
Prediction: Panthers 27, Cardinals 17