The Panthers are heavily favored to beat the Cardinals this weekend, when the teams will meet in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs on Saturday night in Carolina. The oddsmakers have Arizona as double-digit underdogs, and if you listen to the Cardinals' players and coaches, it's with good reason.
After all, the Panthers are the best team in the league, and their running back tandem of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are likely both going to be future Hall-of-Famers. These are the opinions of Cardinals' defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, who had some fun with reporters when asked to discuss his team's underdog status against the Panthers.
How good are running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart?
"It's like Barry Sanders and Walter Payton. Both of them should be in the Pro Bowl together, starting."
On his impressions of the Panthers:
"That's probably the team that's going to win the Super Bowl. Greatest team in the world. They've never lost at home, we lost to them before. They have great running backs and great receivers and a great defense. Again, we're just trying to go over there and keep the game close."
While Dockett was obviously laying it on a bit thick, there's no question that the Cardinals used their underdog status as a motivational tool to win their first home playoff game since 1947 over the Atlanta Falcons. Head coach Ken Wisenhuntsaid as much afterwards.
"A lot of people coming into this game said we were the worst playoff team ever to get in," Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "... I think we rallied around that."
The Cardinals are going to need a lot more than motivation to win on the road in Carolina.
Besides the fact that the Cardinals already lost to the Panthers earlier in the year, Arizona is 0-5 when playing in the Eastern time zone this season. And they may be without one of their biggest weapons on offense: star wide receiver Anquan Boldin. His status is up in the air due to a strained left hamstring, and Boldin will likely be a game-time decision on Saturday. That would make things even tougher on the Cardinals, considering Boldin's production the last time these teams met: he had nine catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns.