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NFL Playoffs Cardinals at Panthers

January 10, 2009

NFL Divisional Playoffs - Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (Saturday 8:15 ET)

The Panthers are currently a 9.5-point favorite with a game total of 49.5 at Sportsbook.com.

Oddsmakers don't give the Arizona Cardinals much of a chance in Saturday's night NFC Divisional Playoff, installing them as 9.5 point dogs at Carolina.

Steve Smith of the PanthersIt's the second time that Arizona has played in Carolina this season. In Week 8's 27-23 Panthers' win, Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt's team won the yardage battle, 425-351.

Overall, the Cardinals were just 3-5 SU & 4-4 ATS on the road, allowing 31.0 PPG. Meanwhile, Carolina was dominant at home, going 8-0 SU & 5-2 ATS with a winning margin of 15.3 PPG.

The yards per play stats find these teams nearly dead even. Arizona out-gains opponents 6.0-5.4, while Carolina is 6.1-5.4. The Panthers have won five straight games head-to-head while going 3-2 ATS.

Arizona is 14-4 Over the total in its last 18 as a road dog, so expect a high scoring affair.

Arizona's strength was on display in the first half of last Saturday's 30-24 Wild-Card home victory over Atlanta, as quarterback Kurt Warner threw touchdown passes to receivers Larry Fitzgerald (45 yards) and Anquan Boldin (71).

But the second half was more about the Cards' defense, which not only limited 1,700-yard rusher Michael Turner to 42 yards on 18 carries but posted a touchdown (Antrel Rolle 27-yard fumble recovery) in the third quarter and a safety (Antonio Smith sack) in the fourth.

Holding the Falcons to 250 total yards, while having Edgerrin James (73 yards) outrush Turner by nearly a 2-to-1 margin brought Arizona's confidence level back to where it was when it clinched the NFC West title.

The Cardinals beat each of their division rivals on the road this season but were 0-5 otherwise, including blowout losses to the Jets (by 21 points), Philadelphia (28) and New England (40).

They played well in the loss at Carolina and had a chance to steal it late after giving up 10 straight points in the second half.

Warner passed for 381 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, while counterpart Jake Delhomme had 248 yards and two scores through the air but lost a fumble at his own 5-yard line that led to a Boldin touchdown.

The Panthers, 8-0 at home, won four of their last five to take a highly competitive NFC South, which had all four teams finish with a better-than .500 record. Carolina's rested offense, which ranked No. 3 overall, should prove a handful.

The backfield combination of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart averaged close to 150 yards per game and Steve Smith topped the league in receiving yards with 1,421. Smith scored on 18 and 65-yard receptions and Williams on a 15-yard run in the regular-season meeting.

No team has a clear edge on special teams. Placekickers John Kasay (28 of 31) and Neil Rackers (25 of 28) are proven commodities and Mark Jones, Steve Breaston and J.J. Arrington are all capable of breaking a long return.

Of the Cards' two possible destinations, this is a better landing spot. Facing the Giants in the blustery Meadowlands would almost certainly spell doom for Warner & Co.

While they're a considerable underdog, they stand half a chance to make it interesting if the defense has a repeat effort.

Pick: Over 49.5

Check out the NFL football betting forum for more playoff picks, predictions and information.


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