ARIZONA over Carolina by 3

Four weeks ago, the 3-8-1 Panthers were looking at a Top 5 draft pick as opposed to a home playoff game. And no one would have faulted head coach Ron Rivera for stealing a few lines from Jim Mora (Playoffs???).
However, nothing could be fi ner than to be in Carolina these days as the NFL postseason gets underway. Well, maybe if the opponent was someone else. You see, not only does the INCREDIBLE STAT OF THE WEEK on page 3 suggest that the Cats could be one-and-done but our database informs us that dogs with a better record are 3-0 SUATS in playoff openers versus an opponent they defeated in their most recent meeting (topped the Panthers, 22-6, last season in Arizona). And speaking of one-and-done, after beating the spread six straight times in the playoffs from 2004-2006, the Cats have dropped their last two playoff openers – and both in this building. And we bet you didn’t know that the Panthers are the first playoff team with a losing record that has been asked to lay points. In fact, only four teams with losing marks have made the postseason and they are predictably 1-3 SUATS in playoff openers. Yes, Carolina is hotter than a girl in a football jersey (not by much) but Cardinals’ HC Bruce Arians thrives against opponents off a SU win, posting a 14-7 SU and 15-6 ATS mark, including 6-0 SUATS if the foe is off an underdog win. And though we realize that the Redbirds have been wobbly down the stretch behind an array of backup quarterbacks, we can’t pass on the value. Grab the points as Arizona improves to 5-2 SU and 6-1 ATS in playoff appearances since 2008.