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NFC Championship Point Spread Set At Natural Home Line

Posted by Matthew Forrester on 1/23/2016 1:08:07 PM

Even the oddsmakers are just kicking up their heels and handing the NFC Championship point spread a natural home line which favors Carolina by -3.0 points. For those of you who just arrived to sports gambling, that’s the default line of any game until its adjusted to reflect a proper handicap. The bookmakers are saying that this game is a dead heat.

That’s because all season long, the Panthers have played like the best team in the NFL. They followed through by vanquishing the Seahawks last weekend in a 31-24 demolition that the score doesn’t properly reflect. If Carolina can put up 31 points in a blink of an eye against a defense that’s both familiar to them and designed to shut them down, they can come out blazing against Arizona as well.

This is a hard sell when Arizona has performed so well, and may have the best coach in the league. Bruce Arians is likely to lock up his third AP NFL Coach of the Year award, and has produced a team that generates the second-most points and allows the 7th fewest. They did a superb job against Green Bay last weekend and were nearly upended by another “Green Mary” from Aaron Rodgers.

The biggest detriment to betting on Arizona is that over two-thirds of the action is leaning against them on the NFC Championship point spread. That’s because Bruce Arians excels when he can take away your best weapon. Doing that against a guy like Cam Newton is a nearly impossible task.

Arizona Cardinals (14-3) vs. Carolina Panthers (16-1)

Sunday, January 24th --- Bank of America Stadium --- 6:40pm EST

NFC Championship Point Spread: CAR -3.0 (47.5)

Arizona also struggled this season when playing mobile quarterbacks, which honestly didn’t happen that often. They lost 6-36 against Seattle in Week 17, and also lost to them outright 39-32 in Week 10. The Cardinals also barely edged Minnesota 23-20 with Bridgewater scrambling all over the place. It’s not a huge sample to go off of, but the concern is there.

Can Arians diagram a scheme to properly contain Cam Newton? That’s not an easy proposition. Newton is a giant man, who’s tough to bring down and his mere presence makes everything so much easier for a dynamo like Jonathan Stewart. It helps that Carolina’s offensive line is absolutely gangbusters as well. They’re a huge reason that Carolina is getting most of the love on the NFC Championship point spread, and the fact that this team is 18-7-1 ATS in their last 26 home games is another.

There’s also serious concern that the bigger problems in this game belong to Arizona. How do they stop a defensive line that devoured Russell Wilson for five sacks and 41 yards of loss? The Panthers overwhelmed Seattle’s offensive line. The Cardinals are coached well upfront, but they’re not more talented on paper.

The reason to back the Cardinals on the NFC Championship point spread is because of Carson Palmer and this ridiculous passing game. Palmer put up 349 passing yards, along with 3 touchdowns and 2 picks, but also needed a lot of luck to get there. One of his scores was a batted pass that was miraculous caught by one of his receivers. He also piled up a massive amount of passing yards on Larry Fitzgerald’s dump-off-scramble in overtime.

I’m not suggesting that Carson Palmer isn’t good enough to overcome the odds, but last week was his first playoff victory ever, and this Panthers’ defense is so spectacular that they can delete him from this matchup.

There’s no reason to suggest that Arizona’s defense can do the same against Cam Newton. It would be a different story of star safety Tyrann Mathieu was on board, but he’s not. The NFC Championship point spread is generally a 50/50 call when it comes to betting, but the logical play is the scorching hot Panthers.

The way they outperformed Seattle last week is a lot different compared to the Cardinals going back and forth with a Packers team that had been surviving on a withered string of cat’s lives up until last week.

Cam Newton won’t be denied. He’s proven that all season long. There’s no way he goes to the doorstep of a Super Bowl and doesn’t get the job done.

NFL Championship Point Spread: CAR -3.0 (OVER)

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