Add Panthers -4.5 vs. Cardinals to Your NFC Wildcard NFL Picks

Nikki Adams

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 2:00 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014 2:00 PM UTC

Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers kickoff Wildcard weekend on Saturday. How will this game play out? Will it fall in line with the NFL odds or will the Cardinals take their NFL betting defying ways into the postseason? Find out as we breakdown this matchup and serve up our NFL picks.

Arizona Cardinals (11-5 SU, 4-4 away)
The Cardinals' season has been an exercise in overcoming various trials and tribulations, namely the injury epidemic at the quarterback position. First they lost Carson Palmer and then Drew Stanton down the stretch, two significant injuries that thrust their playoff bid into question. Predictably, they are the quintessential long shots for an enduring postseason campaign at +4000 in future betting, a market price underscored by back-to-back losses since third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley took over.


Carolina Panthers (7-8-1, 4-4 home)
The Panthers overcame a two-month losing stretch in the NFL, Cam Newton's terrifying car accident and an anaemic NFC South to clinch their second straight title and a berth in the playoffs. Talk about rising to the occasion.

In week 17 NFL betting, the Panthers put in one of their most impressive performances by beating the Atlanta Falcons 34-3 on the road, all while covering as the 3-point road pups or thereabouts depending on your online sportsbook of choice. Cam Newton had a solid showing, as did the unheralded Panthers defense and newfound running game. All in all, the Panthers have won four straight on the trot to set up a date with the Cardinals in this weekend's wildcard round.


Cardinals +5.5 vs. Panthers -5.5
Opening Line: -4.5

The Arizona Cardinals enter their clash with the Carolina Panthers as the decided underdogs across the board, despite a better record on the season straight up and against the spread. It just goes to show that in sports betting it's down to current form rather than overall form.

Cards finished the season with an 11-5 SU and ATS record, highlighted by approximately 1-point margin of victory and a 2.3-point cover margin. By their record against the spread this season, which is the best in the NFL, they are definitely underrated. By current form they aren't. Fact is they've limped into the playoffs with a two-game losing streak and losing four of their last six games overall. Hardly a ringing endorsement for the upset of the wildcard week.

Needless to say, the quarterback carousel has taken some of the shine off the Cardinals particularly down the stretch. Hanging postseason survival on the inexperienced shoulders of third-stringer Ryan Lindley is the equivalent of a Hail Mary. That Lindley was unable to lead the Cards to victory in his two starts – 35-6 loss to the Seahawks and 20-17 loss to the Niners – is case-and-point. Cards are hoping Drew Stanton will be available for the Saturday showdown in Carolina, but that remains up in the air as Stanton is dealing with a knee infection that could sideline him for the game, if not the rest of the postseason. NFL bettors should pay close attention to developments on that score as we approach kick-off.

That said, this negative outlook isn't only down to Ryan Lindley. The overriding opinion about the Cards is that no matter which quarterback gets the start, the NFL odds are sure to remain stacked against them. The reality is that the Cards did lose four of their last six games, four of which featured Stanton as he went 2-2 SU in those starts. Cardinals' defense was also found wanting in the measure of better opponents on the defensive-side of the ball, as recently as the Seahawks and Niners.

By contrast, the Panthers are playing inspired football down the stretch, winning four straight games to clinch the NFC South title. On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers have improved considerably: they've allowed an average of 10.75-points per game over their last four games. Cam Newton has upped his level and the running game has perked up with Jonathan Stewart.

Based on current form, momentum and home advantage, the Panthers should fancy their chances against a Cards team hobbled by injury and waning confidence in their playoff credentials. Surprisingly, early NFL betting markets are recording 54% stake in the Cardinals, most likely down to their success against the spread this season. So often have they been underrated that they've become a bit of a vogue NFL pick amongst NFL bettors. But we're fading the public and take the Panthers as the 4.5-point home chalk on our NFL picks. This isn't the regular season anymore. It's the playoffs, an entirely different ball game. While the smoke-and-mirrors Cardinals have seen further into the picture than most expected they would, it's hard to see them go further. Take the Panthers as the 5.5-point home favourites on your NFL picks and take the -250 NFL odds to win straight up to add more bang to your buck.

NFL Picks: Panthers -4.5 & -250 at 5Dimes

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