It wasn’t quite the shocker that was the Giants’ upset of the Patriots in the Super Bowl last February, but what the Arizona Cardinals did to the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night in Charlotte should be counted as one of the most unexpected outcomes of an NFL playoff game in recent league history.
But then again, Arizona’s 33-13 victory over Carolina – as 10-point underdogs on the SportsInteraction.com NFL betting lines – marked the third time in the last three seasons a double-digit underdog won a playoff game outright on the road.
And had the Pittsburgh Steelers not beaten the San Diego Chargers on Sunday evening in the divisional-round weekend finale, underdogs would have swept the board and won all four games outright.
The Cardinals even spotted the Panthers a touchdown on the opening drive of the game Saturday night. But Arizona, with Kurt Warner throwing to the great Larry Fitzgerald, the running game providing unexpected balance, and the defense forcing three first-half Carolina turnovers, reeled off 27 straight points and had the game put away by halftime.
Earlier on Saturday, the Baltimore Ravens, 3-point underdogs on the SportsInteraction line, out-uglied the Tennessee Titans 13-10 in Nashville.
The Philadelphia Eagles pulled off a rare double when they beat the New York Giants for the second time this season at Giants Stadium, this time by the unusual score of 23-11. Philadelphia, as 4-point underdogs, held New York out of the end zone for its sixth victory in the last seven weeks.
Pittsburgh became the only home team, and the only favorite, to come through over the weekend by beating San Diego on Sunday evening 35-24 as 6-point chalk.
So the NFC championship game is set for Sunday afternoon between the sixth-seeded Eagles and the fourth-seeded Cardinals, while the AFC title game matches the sixth-seeded Ravens and the second-seeded Steelers.