Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers host the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game as early 3-point betting favorites on Sunday with a Super Bowl 50 trip at stake.
And this game will feature the two teams that have been the best in the NFC this season and will show off the two top-scoring offenses in the NFL with MVP-candidate quarterbacks.
For the Panthers, they got to the NFC Championship Game by disposing of the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round by a score of 31-24. Although the final score indicated a close game, it was mostly a laugher as the Panthers were ahead 31-0 at halftime.
The Panthers moved to 9-0 at home this season, which makes their home-field advantage valuable. Although they’re typecast as a defensive outfit, the Panthers, led by MVP front runner Newton, scored a franchise-record 500 points and led the league at 31.3 points per game.
Right behind them were the Arizona Cardinals, who averaged 30.6 points per game in the regular season but fell short of that number in their 26-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round.
The Cardinals definitely didn’t put their best foot forward as quarterback Carson Palmer, who has had his best season as a pro, threw a couple of bad interceptions and the defense gave up a Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired to allow the Packers to tie the game.
The key to the NFC Championship Game figures to be what the Panthers’ stellar front seven can do against Palmer and the Cardinals’ lethal passing game. Carolina is short-handed in the secondary and they could get exposed if they aren’t able to hurry Palmer into making decisions.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson carved up the Panthers for 366 yards and a couple of touchdowns last week, while Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had 305 passing yards in the Panthers’ lone regular season loss in Week 16. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning had four touchdowns in the Panthers’ Week 15 near-loss, so if you’re mapping a pattern, it looks like the Panthers secondary has struggled over the last month.
On the other side of the ball, the key for the Panthers will be to run the football. No NFC team did better than their 142.6 rushing yards per game but they’ll be up against a Cardinals defense that ranked sixth in the NFL, allowing just 91.3 rushing yards per game.