(Sporting Alert) — It’s time for the postseason and the 2014-15 NFL Playoff gets underway on Saturday, Jan. 2 with two games in the Wild-Card Round.
Game time is at 4:20 p.m. ET, and live coverage will be on ESPN and the WatchESPN online App.
Then at 8:15 p.m. ET at Heinz Field, No. 3 Pittsburgh Steelers will entertain No. 6 Baltimore Ravens in their AFC Wild-Card Playoff contest. This game is live on NBC and the NBC Online Player.
Carolina (7-8-1), which went 1-6-1 between Oct. 12 and Nov. 30, comes into the matchup with Arizona on good form after winning four straight games and clinching the NFC South division.
Now Cam Newton and his Panthers teammates are hoping the streak can continue with another win on Saturday, as the former Heisman Trophy combines with his coach Ron Rivera in search of their first playoff win together.
“I think there’s always going to be the doubters that say, ‘Well, you can only get them that far as a coach.'” Rivera said this week.
“Or, ‘You can only get them that far as a quarterback.’ Or, ‘You can only get them that far as a middle linebacker.’
“I don’t want to be the guy that can only get them that far. I’d love to see us obviously go all the way, but we’ve got to take it one game at a time, and the next step, obviously, would be to win a playoff game.”
Newton seems to have fully recovered from his car accident and his stats over the last two weeks since returning have proven just that. Since coming back the 25-year-old has 18 carries for 114 yards with 2 TDs, while the rest of the team has 127 yards on 40 carries without a touchdown.
Arizona, in the meantime, is on a stumbling run coming into this game .
The visitors are on a two game losing streak and have dropped four of its last six games since Nov. 23. They have also allowed 147 rushing yards per game since their six game win streak was snapped, which is ranked 29th in the league — falling 26 places from the opening 10 weeks when they were ranked third. The win percentage during that time also fell to 42.9 percent.
The Cardinals (11-5) will be hoping to rediscover the kind of form that saw them traveling along to the impressive 9-1 start to the season before star quarterback Carson Palmer was forced to undergo surgery to repair a torn ACL.
Offensively, Arizona has Passing Yards Per Game of 238, which ranked 14th, but rushing for just 81.8 yards, which is 31st in the league.
Defensively, they are allowing 18.7 points per game on average for the season.
In team news, the Carolina Panthers is expected to have defensive end Charles Johnson available for the game despite him not taking part in Friday’s practice for family reasons. The home side also listed safety Thomas DeCoud (hamstring) as doubtful, while linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle) is questionable.
Arizona, in the meantime, will be without veteran quarterback Drew Stanton, who is ruled out with a knee injury he suffered on Dec. 11 against the St. Louis Rams.
“Drew is not going to be able to play,” head coach Bruce Arians revealed.
Arians announced on Thursday that Ryan Lindley will start his third game in their Wild Card Weekend matchup. Lindley has completed 48.4 percent of his passes with four interceptions so far for 562 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 56.8.
Arians says after the last performance, he is now more confident and comfortable with Lindley leading the attack, adding that the quarterback is “calm” about the situation.
“That’s one thing that’s got everybody excited,” Arians said. “It’s not been too big for him.
“He’s as calm as you could be out there, and they all know he knows what he’s doing. That’s the confidence factor everybody has.”