Panthers Host Injured Cardinals in Wild Card Round #ARIvsCAR
The Carolina Panthers are in the playoffs. They won the NFC South in convincing fashion on Sunday, beating the Atlanta Falcons 34-3 as 3-point road dogs (–115) to improve to 7-8-1 SU and 8-8 ATS on the season. That’s back-to-back division titles for Carolina, and as their reward, the Panthers get the No. 4 playoff seed in the NFC.
Carolina also gets to host the Arizona Cardinals (11-5 SU and ATS) in the Wild Card Round; game time is this Saturday at 4:35 PM ET on ESPN. Arizona lost its regular-season finale 20-17 to the San Francisco 49ers as a 7-point road underdog (–120). The Cardinals have to settle for a No. 5 seed after failing to win the NFC West, which means they also don’t get a first-round bye, and that’s very bad news in their case.
Sprain and Drain
Arizona’s playoff chances could boil down to how quickly quarterback Drew Stanton (78.7 passer rating) can recover from his sprained knee. Stanton originally appeared on course for the playoffs after sitting out Week 16, but last Wednesday, Stanton needed arthroscopic surgery to clear up an infection in his knee. He could miss the entire playoffs as a result.
In a possibly related move, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians changed his mind about which quarterback would start against San Francisco. He gave Ryan Lindley (46.9 career passer rating going into Week 17) the nod despite a poor performance in Week 16 against the Seattle Seahawks. Rookie Logan Thomas was Arians’ first choice, but that plan was thrown out the window after Wednesday’s practice. Lindley will presumably start against Carolina if Stanton cannot play.
Lindley ended up having one of his best-ever games against the Niners, although that’s not saying much. He got 23-of-39 for 316 yards passing, two touchdowns (the first of his NFL career) and three picks. Meanwhile, the Arizona run defense had its second straight poor performance, allowing 206 rushing yards one week after giving up 267 yards to the Seahawks.
Running in the Family
This has to be music to the Panthers’ ears. They rushed for 194 yards against the Falcons in their season-finale, and they also scored two pick-sixes against Matt Ryan to put the game well out of reach. That’s four straight wins for Carolina at 2-2 ATS; everything is clicking at just the right time for the Panthers, and it’s just as the Cardinals are threatening to fall apart.
Because of the divergent routes these two teams have taken toward the playoffs, the Panthers are expected to open as home favorites when our first NFL lines hit the board. We also anticipate early action on Carolina, who figure to carry some hidden betting value in this matchup against an 11-win Arizona team. Make sure to visit Bovada Sports for updated NFL odds and betting analysis as we get closer to kickoff.