For the past month, Panthers players and coaches have thrived on being the underdogs.
“The thing is, we’re somewhere a lot of people didn’t expect us to be, so that’s great,” Rivera said. “To be where we are today, these guys worked hard to get here. But at the same time they understand that hey, there aren’t a lot of people who were expecting it, and it’s a good thing.”
But the Panthers will take a four-game winning streak in against a team that has lost four of its past six. Carolina (7-8-1) has home-field advantage and is favored by 5 1/2 points against the 11-5 Cardinals.
Rivera said he won’t push the underdog mentality in spite of the statistics. He’s going to push a competitive mentality.
“It doesn’t matter to us,” Rivera said. “They’re an 11-5 football team for a reason.”
Arians believes in momentum. During a teleconference Tuesday morning, Arians recalled his time with the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers as the receivers coach as a point of comparison. At 7-5 in early December, the Steelers won four straight to close the season and get a playoff berth via a wild card. Pittsburgh went on to win the Super Bowl.
“When you play well in December, and the way it turned out for (Carolina), I would think they would have a ton of confidence right now,” Arians said.