Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers Preview
NFL fans are getting exactly the matchup they wanted to get in the NFC Championship Game, as the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers will square off for the right to play in Super Bowl 50. With the top two seeds in the NFC qualifying for this game, it is expected to be a great contest with the winner more than deserving of representing their conference in the Super Bowl. Will the top seeded Panthers get back to the Super Bowl, or will it be the Cardinals to win on the road in this massive game?
Arizona Cardinals Full Of Playmakers
On both sides of the ball, the Arizona Cardinals are filled with playmakers, who have shifted the odds in their favor throughout the regular season and in the NFL playoffs as well. In the NFC Championship game, those playmakers will need to continue to shine against a Carolina Panthers team that has plenty of players capable of making similarly huge plays for their team.
Offensively, the Cardinals need running back David Johnson to play well in order to make the Panthers defense respect the running game, to prevent Carolina’s defense from paying too much attention to Arizona’s strong passing attack. In the passing game, Carson Palmer will need to limit turnovers in a way he struggled to against Green Bay in the previous round, which will help get Larry Fitzgerald and the rest of his wide receivers involved early and often.
Defensively, Arizona should have an advantage against a Panthers team that does not have any big name wide receivers. Patrick Peterson especially should be able to lock down whoever he squares off with on any given play, but all of that is meaningless unless the front seven of the Cardinals can contain Cam Newton and not allow him to use his running ability to break down the Arizona defense.
Carolina Panthers’ Two Different Halves
For the Carolina Panthers, they came out on fire against the Seattle Seahawks last week, getting out to a 31-0 halftime lead. But they were flat in the second half, and only ended up winning the game by a touchdown. So the key for the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game will be to play consistently well for the full 60 minutes, rather than playing well in bursts.
In order to achieve that goal, the Panthers will need to use their strong run defense to put Arizona in third down and long situations, which give the Cardinals the worst chance to succeed on offense. This would allow the Panthers to dominate time of possession and coast to victory. On offense, Cam Newton needs to be able to break long runs when flushed out of the pocket to keep the defense focused on his legs, which opens things up for his great passing talents.
No matter who wins this NFC Championship Game, they should be favored in Super Bowl 50 against either the New England Patriots or Denver Broncos, and rightfully so given just how well both of these teams have been playing.
By: Jason M. Sanin