Wildcard Weekend will start with a defensive slugfest as the Carolina Panthers (7-8-1), winners of the NFC South, will host the Arizona Cardinals (11-5) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Winners of four straight games, Carolina is one of the NFC’s hottest teams. Carolina’s success is attributable to strong play by its defensive line and innovative playmaking by quarterback, Cam Newton.
The average secondary price for Panthers vs Cardinals tickets on TiqIQ is $206.03 while the get-in price is $77. These ticket prices are the second lowest among the four Wildcard playoff games, trailing only the Bengals-Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Carolina’s defense is allowing 11 points per game, on average, during its four-game win streak and racked up six sacks during a 34-3 Week 17 blowout of the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta’s offensive line had no answer for Carolina’s ferocious pass rush. Carolina’s defensive pressure forced quarterback Matt Ryan into untimely, errant passes. Ryan threw two interceptions, both of which were returned for touchdowns. Newton had no trouble moving the ball on Atlanta’s hapless defense, completing 10-of-16 passes for 114 yards and leading a rushing attack that generated 194 yards.
On the season, Carolina has averaged 127.3 rushing yards per game, which is the 7th best mark in the NFL. Arizona’s run defense ranks towards the middle, allowing 108.7 yards per game. Newton and Co. should have a tougher time running against this defense that has helped win eleven games. Fans can expect to pay average team tickets prices for the playoff showdown.
The Cardinals will likely prove to be a formidable opponent for the Panthers, who have struggled despite their first-place finish in the depleted NFC South. On the heels of an 11-win season, Arizona travels to Charlotte with hopes of moving one step closer to a home field Super Bowl Game, which will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale on February 1. Pending a three-win streak in the playoffs, the Cardinals would make their first trip to the NFL’s biggest stage since 2008’s loss to the Steelers. They’ll have to get through a surging Cam Newton, however, who has lit up the secondary just two weeks after injuring his lower back in a car accident en route to practice.
Carolina’s defense will benefit from facing quarterback Ryan Lindley, who is not a starting-caliber quarterback. Lindley has filled in for Carson Palmer, who tore his ACL against the St. Louis Rams. As a starter, Lindley has completed just 48 percent of his passes and has posted a dismal 56.8 passer rating. Arizona is 1-2 with Lindley at the helm. Lindley showed improvement during his last start, throwing for 316 yards and two touchdowns at San Francisco. Lindley did throw three interceptions, so Carolina’s opportunistic secondary will look to make plays.
Arizona has won two straight games against Carolina, including a 22-6 decision in November 2013. Both Newton and Palmer threw three interceptions. A 1-yard touchdown run by running back Rashard Mendenhall and a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end, Jim Dray, proved to be the difference. The winner of this game will move one step closer to representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.