Here we go for starters: LINK
2. Which Cardinals defense will show up this week: The one that shut down Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner or the one that played horribly in the final six weeks of the regular season?
The Cardinals are about to come back to earth when they visit the Carolina Panthers
on Saturday. Yes, Arizona was jacked up for its 30-24 win over Atlanta on Jan. 3 and deserves credit for holding Turner to just 42 yards on 18 carries. But let's not assume this team is ready to shut everybody else down. The Falcons made plenty of mistakes -- from critical dropped passes to missed assignments -- that helped Arizona's defense appear more dominant. The Panthers aren't likely to make those same errors Saturday.
3. Carolina's defense surrendered 65 points combined in its last two regular-season games. Should the Panthers be concerned with Arizona's high-scoring offense coming to town?
No. Sure, the numbers don't look good, but the Panthers' defense also was worn down toward the end of the regular season. Both starting defensive tackles (Damione Lewis
and Maake Kemoeatu
) sat out the regular-season finale, a win over New Orleans, and the Panthers' bye gave them valuable rest. The Panthers also know the best way to help their defense is to run the football and control the clock. With the dangerous tandem of DeAngelo Williams
and Jonathan Stewart
in the backfield, they'll get back to doing just that.
6. Can the Cardinals keep running the football as they did against Atlanta?
Probably not. The Cardinals deserve credit for making a stronger commitment to the run against the Falcons, but this team still had the worst rushing offense in the league. It's just impossible to think Edgerrin James
is going to continue playing well (he has 173 combined yards in his past two games) after playing so miserably the rest of the year. The same holds true for fellow Cardinals runner Tim Hightower
. When it comes down to it, this is a team that will need to throw to beat Carolina.
9. Which player could be the X factor in the Panthers-Cardinals game?
. The Panthers were excited to get this 13-year veteran wide receiver back on their roster during the offseason and now we know we know why: The guy can play. Muhammad had 65 receptions for 923 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season and his blocking remains as good as it gets from an NFL receiver. Quarterback Jake Delhomme
also loves having a proven playmaker who can be relied on when defenses devote too much focus to Pro Bowl wideout Steve Smith
. So look for Muhammad to provide some valuable contributions to the Panthers' offense this weekend.
10. Which teams are going to advance to the NFC Championship Game?
New York and Carolina. The Eagles seem scary, they beat the Giants once and played them tough back in November (a 36-31 loss in Philadelphia), but the Giants coming off the bye makes them too tough to pick against. As for the Panthers, all you have to know is Arizona was 0-5 when it traveled to the East Coast this season, including a 37-23 loss to Carolina on Oct. 26. The Cardinals aren't about to find some magic cure for those problems this time around.
Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com