The NFL Championship game comes to us from Carolina at 5:40pm ET on Sunday afternoon, as the Cardinals travel across the country to face off against the Panthers.
Here's how I see it.
Arizona almost lost it last weekend, as they let the Packers storm back and complete a miraculous Hail Mary to send it to OT. But they immediately sealed it up in the extra period thanks to the ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald. Carson Palmer did not look as good as he has throughout the season in last week's game, but there's no question that the Cards' passing offense is among the best in the league. With rookie playmaker David Johnson in the backfield, they have some serious big-play ability.
Their defense has also been a strong point this season, though it really is the offense that powers this team. They say defense wins championships, but Arizona will be hoping to turn that around and overpower the hosts Carolina with a fiery offensive attack. Can Palmer dial back the clock and get it done?
Carolina seems to be the team that no one wants to trust, but I say it's time we start giving them credit for being the undisputed Super Bowl favorites and best team in the league. They have a monstrous offense that is borderline unstoppable - and they owe it all to Cam Newton. With Ted Ginn Jr. as their #1 wideout, I never would have expected this team to make a deep run, but Cam's dominance, the terrific work by TE Greg Olsen and their methodical, punishing run game has powered this offense all season long to near the top of the charts in all categories.
Defensively, Carolina could be the league's best. They dominate opponents, as they showed in last week's win over Seattle, jumping out to a 31-0 lead and scoring on a pick-six. However, they may be prone to lapses, as also became clear last week, when they allowed 24 unanswered by the Seahawks in the second half. They nearly let it slip.
Carolina has my confidence. They will simply be too much for the Cardinals. They are brash and aggressive, and they have the best team in the league. That will prevail over an Arizona team that will fight hard, but simply won't have enough to pull out the road win.
Panthers 28, Cardinals 19.
And, my Super Bowl pick: Carolina uses this win to win it all. But more on that in a future card!
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