Arizona Cardinals get their shot at Carolina Panthers
By Scott Allen
The Arizona Cardinals face the Carolina Panthers for the NFC Championship game on Sunday at 4:40 p.m. in Charlotte, North Carolina
In the end it had to be. The two best teams in the NFC, the two best teams in the NFL during the 2015 regular season period. The Arizona Cardinals will head east to face the Carolina Panthers next Sunday afternoon for the right to go to Super Bowl 50.
After the Cardinals defeated the Green Bay Packers 26-20 in overtime Saturday night, the Panthers held on for a 31-24 victory Sunday afternoon over the Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers jumped out 31-0 in the first half before hanging on to win.
It may be the Cardinals vs. the Panthers but we all know many will look at this as Carson Palmer vs. Cam Newton. How can you at least not think about it like that for awhile anyway? These two are likely to finish 1-2 in the MVP balloting.
Palmer wasn’t at his best on Saturday night and neither was Newton on Sunday afternoon. Palmer went 25-41 for 349 yards and three touchdowns. He did throw two interceptions though. Also, 80 yards came in the overtime period.
Newton on Sunday went 16-22 for 161 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He carried the ball 11 times for just three yards. For the most part the Seahawks held him in check, mainly in the second-half.
So clearly this will be more than Palmer vs. Newton. The Cardinals with all their weapons on both sides of the ball and Panthers with their stifling defense. The key player for the Cardinals against the Packers was receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Linebacker Luke Kuechly was the star for the Panthers on Sunday.
Both teams will need team efforts to win next Sunday but it all starts and ends with Palmer and Newton. The Cardinals have a chance to exact revenge on the Panthers for last season’s wild-card loss, also in Charlotte. The Panthers can quiet those who still doubt them.
The biggest area for improvement from this weekend for the Cardinals will need to be the running game. It was non-existent against the Packers. David Johnson ran for just 35 yards Saturday night. For the Panthers their biggest are for improvement will be learning how to keep the foot on the pedal if they take any kind of sizeable lead.
The Panthers were up 31-0 at halftime Sunday. Seattle scored 24 unanswered and were one onside kick away from attempting to tie the game. They also were up 35-7 on the New York Giants late in the third quarter in December before the Giants tied the game at 35 late in the fourth quarter.
If the Panthers get any kind of lead, the Cardinals need to know they are still in it. The Panthers though should see the Cardinals do miss Tyrann Mathieu a little and I can see Newton trying to exploit Justin Bethel as the Packers tried time and time again.
It should be fun. I, for one, can not wait for next Sunday. How about you?