The improbable run of the Carolina Panthers winning out in their last 4 games should over shadow winning the worst division arguably in NFL history – but it won’t.  They did finish with a below .500 record and deserve to be razzed about it a bit, but for those who argue the Panthers have no place in the tournament, keep in mind there’s no better way to do this and historically the system which has been in place for a while is bound to turn out these types of anomalies every now and then.

Carolina couldn’t have had a more favorable schedule down the stretch with home games against Cleveland and Tampa Bay, but going on the road in must win games and blasting New Orleans and Atlanta demands recognition.  Carolina got the help they needed, and now the Arizona Cardinals who have faded down the stretch get to travel to sunny Charlotte this weekend.  With their defense, this team is built for the playoffs and matches up perfectly with Arizona and even Seattle.  They already played the Seahawks close this season, so unlike many team, they know they can be on the field with them, but they still need to stick a fork in the Cardinals.  With no QB and no running game no one is expecting much from the Cardinals in this game.  Their tired defense simply cannot maintain its early season efforts and has already started to fall off.  From a rating standpoint this has to be the worst game this week, but don’t tell Cam Newton that.  The third year QB playing with a fracture in his back suffered at the end of the season has improved as the season went on.  Even more impressive, is that in their final four games Cam didn’t start in week 16.  This is far from a team of destiny however as they play sound defense and methodically work the ball up the field on offense with a Billy Graham type of conservatism.  They rarely turn the ball over and often walk away with points.  The X factor is Cam Newton, specifically his mobility against this defense.  Can he run the read option with Jonathan Stewart if necessary, and can he find Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen while standing in the pocket.

No one’s sure who stepped on the crack that broke Cam Newton’s back, but this team hasn’t missed a beat since.  Their bruising style will make them a tough out this year, so grab your vinegar based BBQ and Cheerwine and enjoy.  Look for the Superman S and pretend flying to take center stage often this weekend.

By Des Boo dram

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