Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Divisional Round Preview Arizona @ Carolina

What: An unlikely matchup that will produce the result that is likely.
Who: The Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
When: 8:15 PM EST
What Channel: Fox
Announcers: Kenny Albert, Daryl "Moose" Johnston, Tony "Goose" Siragusa
Announcers' Talking Point of the Game: The Carolina Panthers have such a dominant and dynamic running game.
Weather Forecast: Cloudy with a chance of showers later in the game, 53 degrees
Regular Season Meeting: Week 8: Panthers 27, Cardinals 23

I'll be the first to admit that I did not think that the Cardinals stood a chance in hell against the Falcons. To their credit, they surprised the shit out of me (which given my record of picking games, I guess really is not that big of a feat, but I was certain the Falcons would be here). So now they are traveling to the east coast where they have not won a game against a team a Carolina Panther team that has not lost at home all year.

That alone is a huge obstacle to overcome, and yet one can't help but notice the team that they are going up against. The Panthers are not a fluke team. Their rushing attack is one of the best in the league, consisting of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart who have combined for 28 touchdowns this season.

The only chance the Cardinals may have in this game is to get to an early lead and force Delhomme to throw the ball. Delhomme has pretty much been the only glaring weakspot in this Panther offense and while Steve Smith is a dangerous receiver, the Cardinals would be more than happy to get into an offensive aerial show against the Panthers, for they have Kurt Warner and two of the best receivers in the NFL in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. That may be their only chance. And even then, that would require Kurt Warner to play the game of his life, and at his age, there is no guarantee he won't throw a costly interception or two.

The most interesting part of this game in this otherwise unenticing divisional round match-up (the only one of it's sort) would be the ramifications of a Cardinal upset. That would pretty much raise the stakes of the Eagles-Giants game ten-fold, as if it was not a high stakes game already. For if Arizona wins, the winner of the Eagles-Giants showdown (I'll have a full preview of that one tomorrow), may very well earn themselves a free ticket to Tampa Bay as both the Eagles and the Giants mopped the floor with the Cardinals during the regular season.

Prediction: I'm sure you pretty much guessed by reading above who I am going with in this one. Not only have the Cardinals not won on the east coast and the Panthers not lose at home, but on Monday night, the only bit of mojo they had going for them, the underdog always winning at University of Phoenix Stadium was lost when Texas became the first team that was favored to ever win a post-season game there. So any mojo or dirt that they might bring to Carolina for good luck is no more. Basically, the Cardinals are up the creek without a paddle in this one and will be (figuratively) eaten alive by the Caroina Panthers by a score of 38-17

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