The last time Carolina and Arizona played the Panthers scored 49 points.
It was the high point of that giddy 17-2 season of a year ago – Carolina’s complete demolition of a good Cardinals team in the NFC Championship Game.
Carolina won 49-15. Arizona committed an astonishing seven turnovers. Panthers cornerback Josh Norman proclaimed that the Panthers could have “put a 50-burger” on the Cardinals – referring to the number of points Carolina scored – but that the Carolina coaches had called off the dogs. It was the biggest NFL game ever played in Charlotte, and it turned out to be one of the best.
Since then, the Panthers have lost six of their past seven games including the Super Bowl. Things have gotten very bad very fast.
So there will be no seven turnovers Sunday, and no 49 points. But the key matchup, to me, will be Carolina’s offense (which can still be excellent) vs. Arizona’s defense (which hasn’t allowed a touchdown in either of its past two games).
Cam Newton had four total touchdowns in the NFC title game. He’s going to need another very good game Sunday if Carolina is going to beat the Cardinals, because we all know about the Panthers’ defensive problems.
▪ I am looking to see which team makes a special-teams error first Sunday. Arizona would have beaten Seattle last week if not for a totally preventable blocked punt and then an overtime clank on a 24-yard field goal. The Panthers have been hit-and-miss all season on special teams – mostly miss.
▪ If you think Arizona and Carolina sure seem to play each other a lot, you are right. Including the playoffs, this is the 10th matchup between the two teams over the past 10 seasons.
▪ Prediction time. I am 3-3 picking the Panthers this season after correctly calling their loss against New Orleans. Although Carolina is getting healthier, I am still not a believer in this erratic defense. My pick: Arizona 26, Carolina 16.
Fowler: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @scott_fowler