NFL playoffs begin: Cardinals during Carolina to…

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And so it begins: a cloudy, soppy day in Charlotte, N.C., and a cold, soppy day in Pittsburgh deliver a NFL playoffs.

First up: The Arizona Cardinals (11-5) revisit a Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) in a initial NFC wild-card game. Saturday’s nightcap pits AFC North rivals in a showdown: Baltimore Ravens (10-6) conflicting a Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5). Kickoff in Pittsburgh is 8:15 p.m. ET.

Kickoff in Charlotte: 4:35 p.m. ET

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Despite a apparent inconsistency in their records, a NFC diversion will be most closer than it appears. In fact, many are picking a Panthers to win. Among them, SN football researcher Ross Tucker.

“You’ve got to go with Carolina over Arizona,” Tucker tells SN’s Sara Jane Harris in a concomitant video. “It only seems these are teams going in conflicting directions.”

The Panthers indispensable a feat in their final regular-season diversion to win a NFC South, despite with a losing record. Where is a difference, a corner for a Panthers?

Cam Newton (Getty Images)

Tucker points to quarterback, where he says a Cardinals “are kick up.”

Ryan Lindley will start again during quarterback from manager Bruce Arians, radically a Cardinals’ third-stringer directing a offense in a win-or-go-home game. No. 1 Carson Palmer and backup Drew Stanton are out. Lindley’s backup for this diversion is Logan Thomas, who is haphazard and inexperienced.

Don’t boot Lindley out of hand, however. In previewing a game, The Arizona Republic remarkable Lindley’s play softened over a march of his past dual starts. Despite losing a culmination in San Francisco, Lindley is display a feel for a offense.

Still, SN’s David Steele says Lindley is in over his head. That’s a shame, Steele says, with a approach a Cardinals started out, intolerable a joining and attack toward a multiplication title.

If Cam Newton is on, there’s no approach a Panthers are during a waste in a quarterback matchup. Week 17’s dismantling of a Atlanta Falcons shows Newton is primed and ready.

In Newton, Steele says, a Panthers have a game-shaking, field-tilting, prediction-rattling descent force of their possess that can cancel out a negativity of that bad record.

Keys to watch: The Panthers’ using diversion contingency feat a Cardinals’ defense. And, Lindley should find open receivers if given protection.

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