today's nfc divisional game

January 10, 2009|By Ken Murray

Matchup: Arizona (10-7) at Carolina (12-4), 8:15 p.m.

TV: Chs. 45, 5

Line: Panthers by 9 1/2

Rematch: The Panthers beat the Cardinals at home, 27-23, on Oct. 26. Carolina's Jake Delhomme threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning 65-yard pass to Steve Smith, and DeAngelo Williams rushed for 108 yards. Kurt Warner answered with 381 passing yards for the Cardinals.

Difference-makers: Arizona WR Anquan Boldin, who injured his hamstring on a touchdown catch in the wild-card game, won't be 100 percent, but Warner has more weapons (Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston) in his prolific passing game. Carolina's Williams scored an NFL-high 18 touchdowns and is a breakaway threat. Smith is almost unstoppable on the outside.

Point of attack: Edgerrin James gave Arizona a respectable running game last week, but he's equally important in blitz pickups. The Cardinals will go as far as Warner can take them. The Panthers are more consistent in the running game - Williams has gained at least 100 yards in seven of his past nine games. Arizona played the run very well against Atlanta's Michael Turner. Williams is a different, more elusive runner, and that will be a problem.

The Baltimore Sun's pick: Carolina's defense was middle-of-the-road this season; not a liability, but not dominant, either. For that reason, Arizona might have some success. But in the end, the Cardinals probably will not be able to contain Williams, and that's why the Panthers should win, 31-21.

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