The Brady/Manning bowl has gotten a lot of attention this week, but the NFC Championship game is the one that is more worthy of a watch of the two.
Both the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers have been great all year. The Cardinals had a few rough moments this year, but still finished 13-3. Meanwhile, the Panthers went 15-1, with their lone loss coming in Week 16 at the division rival Atlanta Falcons.
Each team has a great defense, with hig-level pass rushers, and each team also has an elite cornerback (Patrick Peterson for the Cardinals, Josh Norman for the Panthers.)
On top of that, each team is captained by an MVP candidate at quarterback. Arizona’s Carson Palmer was once viewed as an elite prospect, but injuries kept him from garnering that level of success. However, since coming to Arizona in 2014, he has been elite-level.
For Carolina, Cam Newton has scored 45 total touchdowns, and is the clear-cut NFL MVP this year.
Each team also has a solid running game, but the key difference for the two squads is the receiving corps. Arizona has future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, along with John Mrown, as well as touchdown magnet Michael Floyd. Running back David Johnson is also a high-level pass catcher. For Carolina, the cupboard is full of decent journeyman, and is headlined by deep threat Ted Ginn, who is as boom or bust as they come.
In the end, two factors will come into play: how will the weather impact the Cardinals, and how will Carson Palmer play? If he’s rattled the way he was last week, the Panthers will destroy him. However, if he doesn’t turn the ball over, and takes advantage of the defense, then his team has a great shot of pulling it off.
Honestly, I believe it will be a close game. I see Palmer taking advantage of his opportunites, going toe-to-toe with Newton. My heart says Arizona but my head says Carolina.
Heart pick: Arizona 31-27. Gut pick Panthers 28-24.
In the end, may the better team win.