SB Nation 2016 NFL Playoff Guide
The Carolina Panthers handled their business in the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs a lot cleaner than the Arizona Cardinals did. When the two meet in the NFC Championship on Sunday, the Panthers will be coming off a dominant victory over the Seattle Seahawks, while the Cardinals are coming off a narrow overtime win over the Green Bay Packers.
Both teams did the job they set out to do, but the Panthers look better than ever right now and unseating them will be a tough proposition. Only one team did it in the regular season, the NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons who knew the Panthers as well as any team in the league. The Cardinals, on the other hand, fell three times in the regular season, including a home loss to the Seahawks in Week 17.
We’re only a couple weeks removed that 36-6 loss. The Cardinals were completely incapable of moving the ball at home against Seattle, and couldn’t do anything to stop Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense on top of that. The Panthers had no problem scoring against the Seahawks in the Divisional round, at least in the first half when they jumped out to a 31-0 lead.
The Seahawks did start to come back in the second half, though. Although it ended up being just a one-score game, the Panthers were playing safe for much of the second half.
The Panthers and Cardinals were clearly the two best teams in the NFC this year, so it promises to be a competitive matchup, The experts are mostly divided about who will win, although the home team is the slight favorite.
Over at CBS Sports, five of the eight pickers think the Panthers will win, while the ESPN panel is also leaning in their direction. Here at SB Nation, three of our experts are going with the Cardinals to advance to the Super Bowl, with the other four, plus the OddsShark computer, picking Carolina.