NFL Free Pick: ARZ/CAR

The Arizona Cardinals survived the first round of the playoffs and will now hit the road to take on the Carolina Panthers, who are coming off a bye week.

Will we give our free pick nod to the resurgent Cardinals or the well-rested Panthers?

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Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Panthers –9.5 point spread favorite. The over/under for this game has been set at 49.5 total points.

Top Trend: The Panthers are 4-1 against the spread in their last five games and 8-2-1 against the number in their last 11 games at home. The total has also gone over in six of Arizona’s last seven games.

Key Stat: Both of these teams are allowing at least 20 points a game this season, with the Cardinals surrendering a whopping 26.6 PPG. Neither team is particularly good against the run, with Carolina allowing 119.5 yards per game on the ground this season and Arizona allowing 110.2 YPG.

Game Outlook: Nine and a half points is a lot to lay in a playoff game but consider the matchup. Arizona looked impressive in its win over Atlanta last Saturday in the Wild Card Round, but the Cardinals have never traveled well and have been stomped several times on the East Coast this season. Granted, they did manage to get a push with the Panthers earlier this season in Carolina, but the playoffs are a bit different than a regular season game. Carolina is well rested and will look to shove its dynamic running game right down Arizona’s throats. The Cards had success stopping Michael Turner and the Falcons’ run game last week, but again, they’ll have trouble this week without their home crowd behind them. Don’t expect the Panthers to hand the Cardinals three gift turnovers like Atlanta did, either. ‘Zona can certainly throw the ball with the best of them, but the Panthers’ secondary is only allowing 211.7 yards per game through the air. And considering Anquan Boldin might be severely limited because of a hamstring injury, we like the match up even more. Lay the –9.5 points with the Panthers but if you’re looking for our best pick in this matchup, take the over. The Cards’ defense is allowing points in bunches this season and the Panthers have a quick score ability with receiver Steve Smith. Carolina has also had issues putting teams away at times this season, allowing opponents to score easy points in the second half. We like the Panthers –9.5, but love the over 49.5. For the rest of our NFL Divisional Round Free Pick, see below.

Our Free NFL Pick for the Divisional Round Playoff matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers game is

CAROLINA PANTHERS –9.5

TheSpread.com Projected Final Score

Carolina Panthers 34

Arizona Cardinals 20

We also predict that this game will GO OVER THE TOTAL (49.5 Sportsbook.com) SET BY ODDSMAKERS

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Posted: 1/10/08 5:30PM ET

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