The Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers had the most wins in the NFC last season and played in the conference championship game. However, neither will return to the playoff this season. Is either a good bet on NFL odds this Sunday?
The Saints will miss the playoffs again as they are 5-8 after losing at Tampa Bay 16-11 on Sunday. Drew Brees began the day leading the league in completions, attempts, completion percentage, passing yards and TD passes, but failed to throw for a touchdown for the second straight week, the first time he’s done that in consecutive games since 2009. He was picked off three times for the second straight game the first time in his career. Safety Keith Tandy picked off the quarterback’s final pass on fourth-and- 1 from near midfield in the final minute. The Saints’ defense was strong, holding the Bucs to one touchdown and three field goals while also recording a safety. That kind of effort would have been all the Saints’ offense would have needed on normal days. The Saints entered the game first in the NFL in total offense and second with 28.9 points per game.
Arizona (5-7- 1) lost 26-23 in Miami. The Cardinals mounted touchdown drives of 99 and 50 yards to tie the game at 23-23, but Miami forced a punt to start at the Arizona 47 with 1:29 left. Matt Moore threw a 12-yard completion to Kenny Stills for a first down, and then threw long to Kenny Stills for 29 yards to set up the winning field goal. When Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer hit running back David Johnson for a two-point conversion with 3 minutes, 5 seconds left against the Dolphins, the Cardinals should’ve been going up by five instead of tying the game at 23. Three crucial special-team blunders cost the Cardinals five points. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed an extra point on Arizona’s first touchdown, which left the Cardinals trailing 7-6. Then Catanzaro missed a 41-yard field goal off the right upright late in the second quarter. With the Dolphins leading 21-15 in the fourth quarter, a Catanzaro extra point was blocked and returned by Miami to take a 23-15 lead. I like Arizona here.
Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins (-4.5)
Carolina (5-8) beat San Diego 28-16. Cam Newton was a pedestrian 10 of 27 for 160 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception for Carolina, which snapped a two-game losing streak and kept its slim playoff hopes alive. The 37.0 completion percentage was his second-worst in a game in his career. He completed 35.7 percent versus the Saints on Oct. 30, 2014. Jonathan Stewart ran for 66 yards and a touchdown and Graham Gano had four field goals. Despite playing without middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive end Charles Johnson, the Panthers had four sacks on Philip Rivers and forced three turnovers in the first half to build a 23-7 lead. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he was “fine with” Kelvin Benjamin’s effort Week 14 against the Chargers. Rivera also said Benjamin was not benched despite not playing the last series and a half, blaming personnel groupings for the receiver’s absence. Benjamin earned warranted criticism after the game for not even attempting to run down two interceptions which were eventually called back.
Washington (7-5- 1) is battling for a wild-card spot. Receiver DeSean Jackson had three catches for 102 yards and one touchdown in the Redskins’ 27-22 win at Philadelphia. Jackson, who had an 80-yard touchdown catch in the victory, has 22 career touchdowns of at least 60 yards, the second-most in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (23) has more 60+ yard touchdowns. With 21 seconds left in the game and the Eagles on the 14-yard line, Ryan Kerrigan had a sack that forced quarterback Carson Wentz to fumble. The big story of this game is about Washington cornerback Nosh Norman, the former Panthers Pro Bowler. If Norman had his way, he’d still be with team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2012 draft out of Coastal Carolina. But general manager Dave Gettleman made the decision in April to rescind Norman’s franchise tag. Go Skins here.