Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

NFL playoff preview: Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals

Why the Cardinals will win: They have a much better chance if WR Anquan Boldin's sore left hamstring allows him to play, and play effectively, on what may be a wet field. Without him, the Arizona attack doesn't have nearly as much firepower, though the Cardinals curiously have been incorporating RB Edgerrin James into the game plan more. QB Kurt Warner needs to have a big day. But with the focus on their offense, the Cardinals need their defense, particularly the front line, to step up. It did last weekend, holding Atlanta RB Michael Turner to 42 yards, but it has double trouble this weekend with Carolina's duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The Cardinals also have to shut down Panthers WR Steve Smith. And they need to overcome the mental matters of playing in the East. They are 0-5 in the East this season and have been outscored 202-102.

Why the Panthers will win: They're healthy and rested after the bye week, and they're hungry to build on their franchise-record-tying 12-4 regular season. QB Jake Delhomme doesn't get much attention, but his postseason passer rating, 95.0, is third-best all time — behind Bart Starr and Joe Montana — and he has played better as the season has gone on. The homefield is already an advantage. The Panthers went 8-0 at home (and outscored opponents 234-111), and their home advantage may be bigger for their first home playoff game in five years after the cheerleading Charlotte Observer's Friday front-page photo of Bank of America Stadium and headline: "Will We Fill It With Noise?" Plus, their defense, though exposed repeatedly in the second half of the regular season, features the one-man wrecking crew known as Julius Peppers, who had a career-best 14.5 sacks. Also, DEs Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis are back in the lineup.

Matchup to watch: Arizona QB Kurt Warner vs. the Panthers' pass rush. The Panthers want to come hard after Warner early to keep him from getting into a rhythm, but if Warner is savvy enough to take advantage of their aggressiveness, he could have the edge.

Quotable: "I think it will be great. The Monday night game (against Tampa Bay this season) was electric. Our home game in the 2003 playoffs was a Saturday night game, and it was the same way. It was a pretty festive atmosphere, and I would anticipate (tonight) will be the same way." — Panthers QB Jake Delhomme, on playing at night.

Key number

60 Percent chance of rain tonight, which should favor the Panthers; they keep the ball on the ground more.

Stephen F. Holder's pick: Panthers 31, Cardinals 20

Marc Topkin, Times staff writer

Jake Delhomme

NFL playoff preview: Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals 01/09/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 6:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Yankees game

    The Heater

    The 10 strikeouts look flashy, but RHP Chris Archer was not his sharpest Thursday. He allowed three runs on seven hits, including three straight in the two-run second and a Gary Sanchez homer in the third, and lasted only six innings, throwing 102 pitches.

  2. Rays fall to Yankees in 11 on Brett Gardner homer (w/ video)

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The front office did its part Thursday, making two trades to bolster the roster in a push for the playoffs. But the Rays didn't follow up in a frustrating 6-5 11-inning loss to the Yankees.

    Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge stands on the mound and can only watch as the Yankees’ Brett Gardner starts to circle the bases after his walkoff home run leading off the 11th inning.
  3. Believe it! Rays are buyers, trade for reliever Dan Jennings and 1B/DH Lucas Duda

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — Dan Jennings' ability to render lefty hitters useless with a sinker that gets beaten into the ground and Lucas Duda's power to blast baseballs off and over outfield walls should make the Rays better.

    Lucas Duda
  4. Bucs' direction is decidedly up for first time in several years

    Bucs

    TAMPA — If you want to see a team give the Heisman Trophy stiff-arm to expectations, check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Tight end O.J. Howard, left, the Bucs’ first-round draft pick this year, was brought in to give QB Jameis Winston another big-play option.
  5. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Friday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (50) in the dugout during the ninth inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 7-3.