Free NFL Pick: Arizona at Carolina 12-19-2010

December 18, 2010

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Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

Sunday December 19th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Carolina -3

Overview:

It is somewhat comical that the 1-12 Panthers are actually favored against anyone. That being said, the 4-9 Cardinals have only won one game in their last eight outings. The Panthers have lost ten of their 12 games they have played this season by double digit margins. The Cardinals certainly have had their struggles as well, but do they deserve to be underdogs against the worst team in the NFL. After all, if they win this week they could jump to one game out of first place in the NFC West.

Keys to the Game:

  • The Panthers are middle of the road at running the football, which is miles ahead of where the Cardinals rank at defending against the run. With DeAngelo Williams on the IR, the Panthers rely on Mike Goodson and Jonathan Stewart to get the job done. They have a porous offensive line, limited options at receiver, and a rookie quarterback. It is crucial that they get the running game going, because failing to do so will seal their fate.
  • The Cardinals brought in Dan Williams to solidify the front seven and allowed Karlos Dansby to leave town. These were two moves that have worked against the Cardinals this season, as neither one proved to be the correct move. As a result, the Cardinals have seen declined play from just about everyone, including Pro Bowl caliber guys like Adrian Wilson. The Cardinals need someone to step up and prove that they deserve a spot in the Cardinals plans beyond this year.
  • Panthers DE Charles Johnson might not be Julius Peppers, but he is certainly making his impact felt. He has racked up at least one sack in his last four appearances, bringing his total to 8.5 this season. The Panthers need to gut most of their personnel, but it appears as though the 24 year old out of Georgia has earned his keep in Carolina. He could prove to be a disruption on Sunday.
  • Larry Fitzgerald told the media that this was by far the most frustrating year of his career. Without Kurt Warner, the Cardinals have not been able to get the ball to their best offensive weapon. Fitzgerald has been bottled up all season long. The Cardinals will address the quarterback situation this off season, but will Larry Fitzgerald be in Arizona after his contract expires after next season? The Cardinals need to address some glaring needs in order to keep Fitzgerald in Arizona.

Key Matchup:

John Skelton Vs. Jimmy Clausen

  • John Skelton might have been the starting quarterback for a Cardinals team who blew out the Broncos, but he wasn’t the reason they did so. He failed to complete 50 percent of his passes and struggled mightily to find open receivers. The Cardinals don’t have quarterback on their roster who can do it better, so Skelton still gets the nod. Even though he faces the worst passing defense in the league, Skelton probably doesn’t have the upper hand.
  • Jimmy Clausen might be giving some sort of justification to why every team in the league passed on him in the draft. He has thrown seven interceptions and just one touchdown. While he obviously has a poor supporting cast, he does not look the part. The Panthers are going to need to see something from Clausen in order to give merit to the argument that the team would be better off passing on Andrew Luck, should they be in a position to select him.

Wrap Up:

Both of these teams are difficult to bet on. Neither team is incredibly strong at anything, but I am going to give this one to the Panthers. The Cardinals may have won handedly last week, but John Skelton is downright difficult to watch. If Jimmy Clausen can control the amount of interceptions he throws and the Panthers can get something going with their ground game, they should be able to pull off a victory here.

Free NFL Pick: Carolina -3


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