It has been a dream season for the Carolina Panthers, but to be perfectly honest, when you don’t get to the Super Bowl after a 15-1 slate, it can be a nightmare. So the Panthers really need to follow through against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC title game, which gets underway at 6:40 PM ET at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. BetAnySports customers will have a chance to wager on the game while it is in progress through the facilities provided by Live Betting Extra.
Carolina has not only won 16 of its 17 games overall, including the playoff game last week against Seattle, they have gone 12-5 against the football pointspread. So they have defied expectations all the way, it seems. Indeed, this didn’t look like an explosive offense on paper, yet they scored more points (500) than anybody else. Obviously, getting a lot of that credit is Cam Newton, who had 35 TD passes and added 636 yards on the ground as he finally became the unquestioned leader a lot of people in the organization were hoping for when he was made the #1 overall choice in the draft.
Newton has helped this team maximize its weaponry, especially in the wide receiver corps, where the Panthers lost Kelvin Benjamin for the entire season to injury. That means people like Ted Ginn, Jericho Cotchery and Devin Funchess have stepped. The Panthers already had an elite tight end in Greg Olson and a very solid running back in Jonathan Stewart.
In the reduced juice NFL betting odds as they have been posted at BetAnySports, the Panthers are favored at home:
Carolina Panthers -3 (-120)
Arizona Cardinals +3 (+110)
Over 47 points -103
Under 47 points -107
In terms of scoring capability, Arizona was right behind Carolina (489 points). The Cards are balanced, and David Johnson, the rookie out of Northern Iowa, has helped greatly with that, with over 1000 combined rushing-receiving yards. But what this team does best, and what is most in keeping with Bruce Arians’ philosophy, is to get the ball down the field. They have a strong-armed quarterback in Carson Palmer, who has had possibly his best season, with 4671 yards, and these guys can flood the defense with speedy receivers like Michael Floyd, John Brown and JJ Nelson, and that doesn’t even include the crafty Larry Fitzgerald, who is a prolific post-season pass-catcher (average 114 per game). So this is a challenge to Carolina, which is missing defensive back Charles Tillman.
However, the Panthers have plenty of talent on that stop unit, as BetAnySports customers well know. The ringleader is Luke Kuechly, a candidate for defensive player of the year, who teams with Thomas Davis to give Carolina quite possibly the most fearsome 1-2 combo at the linebacker position in the NFL. Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short are Pro Bowl-level anchors on the defensive line, and Josh Norman is the proverbial “shutdown” corner. The problem for the Panthers is that even if you shut down one of Arizona’s receivers, there are others who can burn you in a split second.
And Arizona has its own shutdown cornerback in Patrick Peterson, who may have to determine at some point during the game who he is going to devote his energy to. Ted Ginn is generally the most dangerous guy on the outside, but he’s been struggling with his knee, so the most worrisome guy might be the rookie, Devin Funchess. However, tight end Greg Olsen is Newton’s primary target (77 catches). And the Cards are missing All-Pro safety Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, who might have been the best defender in the league this season (with apologies to JJ Watt).
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