Expert's Final Analysis For Cardinals vs. Panthers NFC Title Game

Kevin Stott

Thursday, January 21, 2016 2:15 PM GMT

Let’s take a modern sports gambler's look at all the numbers between these two upstart NFC teams, overly pontificate some, and then try to make a decent NFL pick for this matchup.

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":2968214, "sportsbooksIds":[169,1096,93,19,92,238], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]
Predicted Final Score: Panthers 27 Cardinals 24
NFL Picks: Panthers Money Line -155 & Over 47½ 
Game Prop Picks: Jonathan Stewart Anytime TD Scorer +100 & Larry Fitzgerald Anytime TD Scorer +130 
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton and the and the NFC’s top-seed and NFC South champion Carolina Panthers (15-1 SU, 11-5 ATS) welcome the NFC’s #2 seed and NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals (14-3 SU, 9-8 ATS) on Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium (Grass) in Charlotte (Sunny skies, 44°, Winds NW 5-10 mph, Humidity 63%, Moonrise 6:39 p.m.) in the NFC Championship Game. NFL Odds (Wednesday evening) see the host Panthers in a tight 2½- (-120, Treasure Island) to 3½-point (Coast Casinos, Bovada) range as the Home favorites with while the Total (Points) is also in a fairly tight but tiny Middle-able range (if you have the access) range with 47½’s (Sportsbet.com, BetUS) and 48½’s (CarbonSports, Sportsbook.ag) currently in the marketplace which is predominantly full of 48s. In the Money Line (Winner) marketplace, LB Luke Kuechly and the Panthers are priced at -156 with the Road underdog Cardinals priced at +141 on the takeback (Pinnacle). The Carolina Panthers Total Team Points is at 25½ (Ladbrokes) while the Arizona Cardinals Total Team Points is at 22½ (Ladbrokes). The 1st Half Total is 23½ (William Hill) while the 1st Half Point Spread sees host Carolina as 2½-point favorites (William Hill).

 

Final Scores in Last 10 Meetings in Arizona Cardinals-Carolina Panthers Series
2015—@ Panthers 27 Cardinals 16 (CAR -5½) Total Points Scored: 43 (Over, 37½) (NFC Playoffs)
2013—@ Cardinals 22 Panthers 6 (CAR -3) Total Points Scored: 28 (Under, 41) 
2011—@ Cardinals 28 Panthers 21 (AZ -6½) Total Points Scored: 49 (Over, 37½)
2010—@ Panthers 19 Cardinals 12 (CAR -2½) Total Points Scored: 31 (Under, 37½)
2009—Panthers 34 @ Cardinals 21 (AZ -10) Total Points Scored: 55 (Over, 42)
2009—Cardinals 33 @ Panthers 13 (CAR -10) Total Points Scored: 46 (Under, 49½) (NFC Playoffs)
2008—@ Panthers 27 Cardinals 23 (CAR -5½) Total Points Scored: 50 (Over, 43)
2007—Panthers 25 @ Cardinals 10 (AZ -6) Total Points Scored: 35 (Under, 38½)
2005—Panthers 24 @ Cardinals 20 (CAR-2½) Total Points Scored: 44 (Over, 43) (Sun Devil Stadium)
2004—@ Panthers 35 Cardinals 10 (CAR -2½) Total Points Scored: 45 (Over, 37)

 

Thoughts On NFC Championship Game Total (Points)
Lowest Total in Market: 47½ (CG Technology)
Highest Total in Market: 48
Current Consensus Total in Market: 47½, 48
Totals Trends, Thoughts: As you can see—besides the Panthers healthy 7-3 SU mark in this series—the L10 meetings have seen these two alternating Over and Unders the L8 meetings with the Over holding a slight (but seemingly insignificant) edge although the data does only date back to 2004 meaning fresh information and these two teams have a decent enough Sample Size to pass some judgment. But no. And why? These two teams have both changed so much over the past 10 years as you can see that by the Point Spreads above and who was favored and when and where. Salvador Dali would enjoy this haphazardness but the fact the Home team has won the L4 meetings by 11, 16, 7 and 7 points is a big edge to the big black Cats here. But we’re talking about the Total so snap out brittle-breath and save that rambling for a later paragraph, Cap. Arizona could very well be affected by the 2 Time Zone difference between Arizona (MST) and North Carolina (EST), but, luckily for the Birds, the game is the second game of the day—it will get Cold later in the 2nd Half when the Sun takes a lap—so they will all be awake when eating their gruel unlike the Seahawks who had a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call here in their loss at Carolina last weekend which they still may not have arisen from. “Hello. Mr. Lynch, this is the front desk calling. We know it’s still dark out and Winter and you’re in a strange hotel bed and it’s 4-a-funkin-clock in the morning and everything, but this is your wake-up call.” So, that’ a good thing for Head Coach Bruce Arians and his bunch of Sonoran Desert rats. No man likes to get up at the crack of dawn and get slapped in the head repeatedly, even if for millions of US dollars. Anyway, the Over is 9-3 ATS the L12 Panthers games against the NFC and the Over is also 6-2 in Carolina’s L8 games overall, including the last meeting between these two teams in last season’s NFC Wild Card Round (January 3, 2015) where Carolina handled Arizona, 27-16 with the game going Over (by 5½ points) the low posted Total of 37½, due primarily to the injury of Cardinals starting QB Carson Palmer and the presence of one Ryan Lindley at QB. Carolina Overs are 11-5-1 this season while Arizona is 9-8 O/U. The Defenses here are both very good with Arizona ranked #5 in the NFL (5,147 yards, 321.7 ypg, 19.6 ppg) in the Regular Season and Carolina right behind them at #6 (5,167 yards, 322.9 yards, 19.3 ppg). But the Offenses are just as scary, if not scarier and the Weather shouldn’t be too much an issue although a big front is bringing sleet and cold to Charlotte and is forecast to hit Thursday, so keep your eye on that reality. Panthers QB Newton (+137 Anytime TD Scorer, Sky Bet), RB Jonathan Stewart (+100 Anytime TD Scorer, Paddy Power) and TE Greg Olsen (+150 Anytime TD Scorer, Sky Bet) and the rest of the Carolina Offense (#11 in NFL, 5,871 yards, 366.9, 31.3 ppg) might not be as explosive, speedy or prolific as Palmer and the Cardinals Offense (#1 in NFL, 6,533 yards, 408.3 ypg, 30.6 ppg) but it’s very close and Kuechly and the Carolina Defense (#1 in NFL in TO Differential +22 including Playoffs) can score when they don’t even have the football while the Cardinals Defense (#4 in NFL, +9 To Differential) can have lapses on Defense, as they showed late in the Regular Season against the Seahawks and last weekend against the Packers, where a bing-bing-bing bounce helped them get here. Let’s face it, they got a little lucky and playing a worn-down Green Bay side had to help.

 

Why the Carolina Panthers Should Win This Important Football Game 
The Panthers on the Money Line at -153 (5Dimes) seems like a good value play in that you’re avoiding the possibility of losing your money should the Panthers win by either 1 or 2 (points) and you would Push (tie, get your money back) if they would end up winning by 3 if that’s the number you laid with the Home chalks. So, seeking Carolina at a current market low (-153, 5Dimes) and betting them on the Money Line feels safer than laying that 3 (or more if the Point Spread goes up the Panthers’ way and it very well could according to the smart voices on the local radio) as the Sharps will no doubt be waiting for the line to go up to 3½ and will likely come in late on the underdog Cardinals awayway. And either way, the sportsbooks are all probably going to be rooting hard for Arizona as the Public money has and will probably continue to come in on Panthers. Here is why host Carolina should win yet another football game this season and win the NFC Championship and head merrily off to Super Bowl 50...

1—Current Quarterback Physicality Reality: Cam Newton vs. Carson Palmer. And their Faces, Hands and Legs as seen on display in the NFC Divisional Playoff Rounds this past weekend. Newton was smiling most of the game, happy and confident and pointing forward as he has done all this season confidently on all significant gains. And Auburn product Newton has the Size (6-5, 245 pounds) and is healthier than Palmer and not afraid to get hurt. Palmer, on the other hand, was grimacing, nervous and looked bothered all game long against Green Bay and he was at Home (University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale) and his team won the game. The Hands? Simple. Newton’s are strong and healthy and producing without thought while Palmer’s Right Hand is not an optimal Right hand for a QB that needs to throw the football to his wonderful corps of Receivers. Even that flexible Cardinal-colored red tape on his right index finger couldn’t disguise just how much the USC product Palmer is sometimes over-thinking when he throws the football because of the Injury. And in Saturday’s win over the Packers, Palmer was overthrowing and aiming and trying to zip balls in, accommodating that bad finger, and it showed. And then he frowned in disgust. It’s hard to fix things like that in a week. And the legs? The 6-5, 235-pound Palmer doesn’t really run too much and isn’t expected to, especially coming back from an ACL injury (25 rushes, 24 yards, 0 TD) while Cam Newton is a RB who can throw the football better than 77% of the QBs in the NFL and who rushed 132 times for 636 yards (4.8 ypc) and 10 TDs in the Regular Season. And when Arizona QB Palmer fades back, opposing LBs and DBs pretty much know he’s throwing the pigskin somewhere. The same can’t be said for Newton, the Terminator QB as he will run wild and there’s nothing you can do but hope he doesn’t run too far or hurt you when you try to tackle him. Few have probably got hurt tackling Carson Palmer. Maybe his little brother Jordan in Middle School.

2—The Panthers Defense. Fifth-year Carolina Head Coach Rivera was a LB with the Chicago Bears and a pretty damn good one so he knows the importance of commitment to Defense. With LB extraordinaire Kuechly, LB Shaq Thompson, DE Jared Allen—now Questionable but expect him to try hard to be ready—DT Star Lotulelei, CB Josh Norman and budding star S Kurt Coleman (7 Interceptions), Rivera has built a team of smart, ball-hungry guys who are actually playing like a little Offense on Defense, as they showed early on with Kuechly 17-yard TD Pick-6 in the win over the Seattle Seahawks here at Bank of America Stadium last weekend. And that’s no knock to the Arizona Defense which has allowed just 0.01 ppg more than the Panthers (19.6-19.5). And a +22 TO Differential (Takeaways - Giveaways) doesn’t happen by accident. Defense wins championships and this Carolina team has a very good one.

3—The Panthers underrated Offense. Even though Arizona is #1 in the NFL in Offense, Carolina and potential NFL MVP Newton (+300 to be Super Bowl MVP, Paddy Power) have actually averaged more Points Per game (ppg) than Arizona (31.3-30.3) even though TE Jermaine Gresham (+550 Anytime TD Scorer, bet365) the Cardinals are the only team in the NFL to average more than +1.0 yard per play overall. And with the Honey Badger Tyrann Mathieu (Knee) Out and unable to cover Panthers TE Olsen, Carolina may try to exploit whatever matchup(s) Arizona tries to deploy. With the confident, large, healthy and mobile Newton (25-18-1 ATS at Home, 7-2 ATS this season) at QB, the Panthers are a tough team to defend and with workhorse RB Stewart, TEs Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson, WRs Brown, Ginn, Cotchery and Rookie (Michigan) Devin Funchess, this team can score many ways and let’s not forget Philly Brown. Bad, bad Philly Brown, baddest man in the whole damn town.

4—Handing little Kids in the Stands Footballs after TDs is Good Karma. Ya dig?

5—The Site. Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina in the Southeast in the Eastern Time Zone (EST) 2 hours ahead of Arizona (MST) and the Cardinals Body Clocks. This will be one of, if not the biggest game in stadium history and the city and community will be electric beyond belief and may be actually worth ½-point in this spot because of the Noise and the suspected breaks they will get over the 60-minute long haul from the Referees. Site matters.

6—The Panthers are the better team. Carolina is more Confident and definitely has that we-wanna-get-to-the Super Bowl swagger. And the Panthers actually have a Rushing attack with Stewart whereas David Johnson, in for the injured Chris Johnson, is a real question mark for Arizona. Third-year Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians may be a genius in some ways, but he can’t prevent Injuries and he can’t run the ball so Johnson the Fresher, Andre Ellington and others will have to try to carry the load. And oh yeah, as mentioned, Newton can and will run and probably gets a rushing TD here while Palmer will prefer not to have to run or scramble, especially after last year’s Knee problems and surgery and his current throwing hand issues. The USC product does have a little bit better corps of Receivers than the Cats with stud Larry Fitzgerald (+110 Anytime TD Scorer, William Hill), Notre Dame product and TD-scorer last week Michael Floyd (+110 Anytime TD Scorer, William Hill), Jaron Brown (+600, Sky Bet), JJ Nelson (+500,  William Hill) and speedy John Brown (+110 Anytime TD Scorer, William Hill), who actually caught the Roadrunner on Tuesday morning and mulled boiling him for dinner but realized he had practice later that afternoon and that Arians would fine him if he was late and is not related to Jaron, Philly or Corey. The Panthers do have some nice guys who can catch the football in TE Greg Olsen (+150 Anytime TD Scorer, Sky Bet), WR Ted Ginn Jr. (+175 Anytime TD Scorer,  William Hill), WR Jerricho Cotchery (+300 Anytime TD Scorer,at William Hill), Philly Brown (+240, Paddy Power) and Corey Brown (+300 Anytime TD Scorer, William Hill). It seems after writing this someone named Brown will score a TD. And it won’t be James or Bobby. And that’s his prerogative.

 

How This NFC Championship Game in the Tar Heel State May Turn Out on Sunday Afternoon
Carolina is 9-5-0 lifetime against Arizona and has outscored the Cardinals 298-265 but that was when we thought we cared when it’s Now, now and we really do. This game could possibly go either way, but Logic says the way Palmer played and threw may have been a harbinger of disaster to come and with 7 picks and a Panthers jersey on his body, S Coleman could pick one off a find the End Zone on Sunday. Carolina (+210 to win Super Bowl, 10Red) are, and have been on a roll and would still be undefeated—a real rarity in both the old and new NFL—had their rival Falcons not burst their perfect bubble in Atlanta. Look for Carolina (9-3 ATS L12 vs. the NFC) to try to put heavy early pressure on Palmer both to rattle him and go for that valuable TO. And a good hit to the hand and that throwing fing may be worse than before and the Cardinals (+400 to win Super Bowl, 32Red) may wish Chris Johnson—who says he is ready now—was back in the backfield and that they could hand the stupid ball off once in awhile. This game seems like a Cam Newton vs. Larry Fitzgerald thing and expect both to figure heavily in the ultimate outcome. Should either the Cardinals stifle Newton or the Panthers shut down Fitzgerald, it could be a long day for the other side. But the Site, Momentum and Confidence, Lucky Breaks and projected big QB edge with Palmer’s hand and mobility issues. This should be a fun and close game and these two sides have been the two best teams in the conference and whomever represents the NFC at Super Bowl 50 from the NFC will bring quite the balanced and intimidating team to Santa Clara. Sportsbooks worldwide will likely need the Cardinals (to cover ATS) big-time in this game, especially on Teasers and Parlays should the 3-point-chalk New England Patriots and Tom Brady win and cover in the AFC Championship Game at Sports Authority Field in Denver earlier in the day on Sunday (CBS, 3:05 p.m. EST/12:05 p.m. PST). Take Panthers as the sharp NFL Pick.