Here are my thoughts going into Saturday night's Arizona-Cardinal playoff game:
I remember five years ago -- on Jan.10, 2004 -- when the Panthers played another Saturday playoff game. It was Jake Delhomme’s 29th birthday. It was Steve Smith’s coming-out party. It was Carolina 29, St. Louis 23, in double overtime.
** My most vivid memory of that day in St. Louis was Smith’s 69-yard touchdown catch. But I also clearly remember seeing Kurt Warner after the game – clean and untouched, since he hadn’t played. Marc Bulger started in front of Warner instead that day (now there’s a poor decision) and threw three interceptions.
** For the Panthers to have another memorable Jan.10 -- this time in 2009 -- they will need Smith and Delhomme to both play well. More than that, though, they will need their defensive secondary to make some plays. In particular, I think cornerback Chris Gamble has a lot of potential to make or break Warner today. He’s the best athlete Carolina has got in the secondary. If he gets burned constantly by the wondrous Larry Fitzgerald, that’s a very bad sign.
** Arizona’s defense can be very good – witness Michael Turner’s pitiful 42 yards rushing last week for Atlanta. Here's my first prediction: I think DeAngelo Williams will triple that figure (to 126) for Carolina Saturday. I expect him to break at least one run of over 30 yards, too.
** If the weather’s good, Panther fans, enjoy yourself if you've got tickets. If the weather’s bad, at least take some consolation in the fact that Arizona doesn’t play as well in inclement weather.
** My prediction: Carolina 34, Arizona 27.