Glendale, AZ - When the Arizona Cardinals intercepted Jake Delhomme five times in the their divisional playoff upset of the Carolina Panthers in January, it wasn't just part of their rise to prominence in the NFC.
It may also have marked the beginning of the end for Delhomme as Carolina's starting quarterback.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made the Cardinals -10 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 85% of bets for this game have been placed on the Cardinals -10 (View NFL bet percentages).
The one-time Pro Bowler probably needs a good performance Sunday in Glendale, Ariz., to hang onto the job, but he and the struggling Panthers will be facing a Cardinals team that forced four turnovers in a statement road win over an NFC power last week.
Arizona's 33-13 postseason victory over the Panthers was only one step in the team's unlikely run to the Super Bowl last season, and after a slow start this fall, the Cardinals (4-2) have won three straight and established themselves as the team to beat in the NFC West.
Perhaps their most impressive victory was 24-17 over the New York Giants on Sunday night. The Cardinals intercepted Eli Manning three times, sealing the game when Antrel Rolle picked him off late in the fourth quarter.
"We have a good thing going with our defense as far as accountability and belief in each other," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "They are playing very fast and very physical and making plays."
Although Arizona was held to 288 yards by the NFL's top-ranked defense, it still scored at least three touchdowns for the third straight game and got a promising performance from rookie Beanie Wells, who rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
"Outside of the playoffs last year, we haven't had a lot of quality wins, wins against tough opponents, teams that are playing really well," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "Those are kind of statement games, where you gain confidence, and you feel like you can compete with anybody."
Even though Carolina was 8-0 at home in the 2008 regular season, the Cardinals obviously believed they could win a playoff game in Charlotte, a result they achieved in part due to Delhomme's dismal performance.
He threw five interceptions and also lost a fumble, helping Arizona cruise to a spot in the NFC title game. It hasn't gotten any easier for the veteran this season; his NFL-high 13 interceptions in six games are already three short of matching his career high, and he's thrown just four touchdown passes.
He racked up 325 passing yards against Buffalo on Sunday but didn't find the end zone and was picked off three times - a big reason why the Panthers lost 20-9 despite outgaining the Bills 425-167.
Although Delhomme reached the Pro Bowl in 2005 and got a lucrative five-year extension in the offseason, coach John Fox contemplated benching him earlier this week. Fox, though, announced after practice Wednesday that he still thinks Delhomme gives the Panthers "the best chance to win."
Carolina (2-4) has already equaled its loss total from 2008 in part because of a league-worst 21 turnovers. The team had 19 all of last season.
"If he would have went that way, how could I blame him? I mean, let's be real here, how could I blame him?" Delhomme said. "But I was hoping it would be me. I'm going down swinging. I don't know any other way to put it."
Although DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart form the core of the NFL's eighth-ranked rushing offense, they combined for just 23 carries against the Bills while Delhomme attempted 44 passes.
The Cardinals would love more production from their league-worst running game, something they hope Wells can provide. While Tim Hightower is technically still the starting running back, he had just four carries against the Giants.
"When we feel like Beanie is ready that's when he will (start)," Whisenhunt said. "I think we have had great success doing that with our players. That will continue. We are not just going to put somebody in there. He is going to have to earn that."
Arizona is looking to earn a second straight win at University of Phoenix Stadium after starting 0-2 there, but it may have to play without one of its top defensive backs. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who's tied for the team lead with three interceptions, suffered an ankle injury against New York, leaving his status unclear.
The Cardinals have lost five straight to Carolina in the regular season since a 16-13 road win Oct. 6, 2002.
Posted: 10/28/09 3:59PM ET