** For most of their history, the Arizona Cardinals have been a joke. They were somewhere out there in the desert, drawing fewer fans for actual games than some teams drew for training-camp practices. Nobody cared about them.
** These Cardinals, however, are no joke. Kurt Warner is a fence post in the pocket, but he's a fast-acting fence post. He gets the ball out as quickly as anyone in the NFL. If you ever do get a shot on Warner, he's prone to fumbling, but that's easier said than done.
** If the Panthers win this one, they go into the bye week at 6-2 feeling very good about themselves. If they don't, 5-3 is still halfway to 10-6, and 10-6 almost always makes the playoffs.
** I saw wonderful Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald horribly misused once in Bank of America Stadium. Pittsburgh came to town in 2003 to play Virginia in what was then known as the Continental Tire Bowl. Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris had the terrible idea to use Fitzgerald -- the best receiver in the country and the Heisman Trophy runnerup -- as a decoy practically the whole game. It didn't work. Virginia won, 23-16, behind quarterback Matt Schaub.
** I've picked the Panthers correctly the past four weeks in a row, but get your rotten tomatoes ready. I'm choosing the home team to lose this one. Not for any particular reason, really. Arizona is just a tough team, a playoff team, and it's been going so beautifully for the Panthers at home (where they are 4-0 this season) that I think they're about to hit a bump.
My prediction: Arizona 24, Carolina 20.
Steve Smith: I'm a Panther until I'm told otherwise
13 hours ago