Check out our preview for Sunday’s NFL Wild Card action right here.
Carolina Panthers opened as 4.5-point favorites, but have moved up to 6.5-point favorites. Total has dropped from 39 to 37.5 points.
The Arizona Cardinals cruised through most of the regular season thanks to a nasty defence and an offence that produced just enough big plays to get them by most weeks. Then quarterback Carson Palmer blew out his knee and Arizona lost four of its last five to barely make the big dance. This is a bad matchup for the Cards in just about every way. They ranked 31st in regular season rushing and now have to hope journeyman third-stringer Ryan Lindley can somehow move the chains against the Panthers, who are allowing fewer than 11 points per game over their last four.
The Panthers have been on a roll since their bye week and won their last four games to qualify for the playoffs. They’re much better than their 7-8-1 record indicates. Carolina’s front four is causing major issues for offensive lines and quarterback Cam Newton finally looks healthy. If he can become a running threat in this one the Cardinals are going to have a long day. If you didn’t get the Panthers at 4.5, it’s tough to eat two more points, but they should roll here.
Carolina 24, Arizona 10.
The hometown Pittsburgh Steelers are set as 3-point favorites. The total has dropped from 47 to 46 points.
With this rivalry, take all your stats and trends and throw them out the window. These teams have hated each other for years and it’s hard to gauge which side has the upper hand from one week to the next. Injuries could play a significant factor this weekend. Pittsburgh’s workhorse running back Le’Veon Bell is questionable with a knee problem. If Bell is out, he will certainly be missed, but the Steelers hammered Baltimore 43-23 earlier this year when he rushed for just 20 yards. That said, Baltimore is on a major hot streak with five wins in its last seven games and will get a boost with Haloti Ngata coming back off suspension.
It’s really hard to trust Joe Flacco and this Ravens offence. If Baltimore sticks to giving Justin Forsett the ball 25 times instead of throwing deep passes all over the place, that’s good news for Ravens bettors. Flacco can’t be trusted against the Steelers. Pittsburgh can burn Baltimore’s secondary, but Ngata should give Ben Roethlisberger a lot more to worry about. With Bell iffy, this is going to be a very difficult test for the Steelers. Don’t rule out the upset.
Pittsburgh Steelers 23, Baltimore Ravens 21.