Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers, 6:40 PM, ET on Fox
The Panthers boast the NFL’s best record with only one loss. But they’ve been playing with fire, and one of these weeks it’s likely going to catch up with them.
They display a tendency to build big leads, and then allow opponents to storm back and make it too close for comfort. This pattern reared its ugly head against the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants during the regular season, and in last week’s divisional-round playoff win over Seattle.
They need to avoid this pattern against Arizona, a team that’s scored 131 points on the road in the second half this year. In other words, they are very equipped to do the same thing.
A big reason the Panthers relinquish big leads is a weakness in pass coverage. They lost their second and third cornerbacks to season-ending injuries.
And not having these two players, along with losing talented pass rusher Jared Allen, could lead to a loss to Arizona, a team loaded with talented wide receivers, including Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Floyd, and John Brown.
So while most are picking the Panthers, don’t be shocked if the road team comes away a victory.