The 2015 NFL playoffs get underway on Saturday with the No. 4 seed Carolina Panthers hosting the No. 5 seed Arizona Cardinals. The Panthers stumbled their way to a 7-8-1 record, but in the trashy NFC South, it was enough to secure the division. With that division victory comes a home game in the first round of the playoffs. I'd prefer they seed based entirely on record, but they continue to give the sub-.500 division winner that home game. A playoff spot should be enough of a reward for a division title.
The Cardinals stumbled late in the season, but had secured a wild card berth with enough time left. The Cardinals had a great shot to win the NFC West, but injuries ravaged them, and they just could not get enough healthy bodies to get some key wins. They head into the playoff game with Ryan Lindley starting at quarterback. There had been hope Drew Stanton's knee would clear up in time for the game, but he developed an infection and so he will not play on Saturday. It remains to be seen if he could make it back for a divisional game.
The Cardinals best shot is to put together a huge defensive performance and force Cam Newton to make some mistakes. While that is a reasonable request, I just don't know if they will have enough offense to back it up. I think we see a very low scoring game, which bodes well for Arizona. I have the Cardinals covering, but the Panthers winning.
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
When: 4:20 p.m. ET
Announcers: Jon Gruden, Mike Tirico
Radio: Cardinals Radio Network | Panthers Radio Network
Online Streaming: WatchESPN
Odds: Carolina, the home team, opened up as 4-point favorites for this matchup. The line only increased in their favor throughout the week, varying between betting sites. They could be had at -7 during the week, according to OddsShark.
Panthers blog: Cat Scratch Reader
Cardinals blog: Revenge of the Birds