Saturday, January 10, 2009

OFFENSE: Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin could be limited or sidelined by a hamstring injury. That makes the Cardinals just a little bit easier to cover in the passing game, but QB Kurt Warner has two other 1,000-yard WRs -- Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston -- at his disposal. RB Edgerrin James has become the starter and played well the past two games. . . . The Panthers probably will try to control the game with RB DeAngelo Williams, the league's third-leading rusher during the regular season, and look to WR Steve Smith for a big play or two in the passing game. Rookie RB Jonathan Stewart has performed well as Williams's backup.

DEFENSE: The Cardinals played well on defense while beating the Falcons in a first-round playoff game last weekend, highlighted by CB Antrel Rolle's fumble return for a touchdown. But Arizona ranked only 19th in the NFL in total defense during the regular season. That was only one spot behind the Panthers, however. . . . Carolina surrendered 381 passing yards to Warner when the Panthers beat the Cardinals in Week 8 of the regular season, but limited Arizona to 50 rushing yards, with only 20 of them from running backs.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Both place kickers had good seasons. The Cardinals' Neil Rackers made 25 of 28 field goal attempts while the Panthers' John Kasay went 28 for 31. Rackers had a miss against the Falcons last weekend, though.

COACHES: The task for the Cardinals' Ken Whisenhunt is to convince his team it can come to the East Coast and beat a good team on the road. . . . The Panthers' John Fox must get his players to knock the rust off their game after a two-week layoff and avoid complacency in a contest that Carolina is expected to win.

WINNER: Panthers.

-- Mark Maske

© 2009 The Washington Post Company