Favoured Panthers, Cardinals vie for top seed in the NFC
Daniel Coyle, American Sports Correspondent | December 31, 2015
The NFL playoff picture remains fluid entering the final weekend of the regular season, particularly in the NFC, where the No. 1 seed remains up for grabs, while the stage is set for a showdown to determine the NFC North champions.
Carolina Panthers can lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday as 10-point favourites in NFL betting with Coral.
The 14-1 Panthers suffered their first straight up loss of the season last weekend, dropping a 20-13 decision to the division rival Atlanta Falcons as 7-point favourites.
That loss also extended Carolina’s current struggles, where they have picked up just one against the spread victory in their past four outings, and are now a middling 2-2 ATS when favoured by seven or more points.
Since reaching Thanksgiving with a promising 5-5 SU record, it has been all downhill for the Bucs, SU and ATS losers in four of their past five.
Points have been hard to come by for Tampa Bay, who have failed to reach 20 in six of their past eight, have been plagued by sloppy play, making five turnovers over their past two, and are winless in their last five dates with the Panthers.
Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals (-6)
While a victory clinches first place in the NFC, a Carolina loss combined with a win by Arizona would hand the top seed to the Cardinals, who entertain the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday as 6-point chalk.
Arizona, the highest scoring team in the NFL, takes a nine-game SU win streak into their Week 17 matchup at University of Phoenix Stadium, including blowout victories over Green Bay and Philadelphia in their past two outings.
The 13-2 Cardinals have also demonstrated stingy defense, holding opponents to just 12.2 points per game over their past five.
However, Arizona has also produced mixed results as a heavy favourite, going 3-4 ATS when favoured by six or more points, and just 1-5 ATS when scoring fewer than 30 points.
Seahawks look to rebound from their 23-17 loss to St. Louis, which ended their five-game SU and ATS win streak. But the Seattle defense could give the Cards all they can handle, after surrendering just 10.75 points per game over their last four.
Seattle has already clinched a playoff spot, but can improve to the No. 5 seed, and a date with the Washington Redskins on Wild Card Weekend, with a win over Arizona, combined with a loss by Minnesota in their clash with the Green Bay Packers.
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers (-3.5)
The 10-5 Vikings travel to Lambeau Field as 3.5-point underdogs in a battle with Green Bay that will determine the NFC North champion and the NFC’s No. 3 seed.
The Packers stumble home following their beating in the desert, which ended a three-game SU and ATS winning stretch.
Green Bay has lost two of three SU at Lambeau, but have dominated the Vikings, going undefeated SU in Minnesota’s last six visits.
However, the Vikings have rediscovered their offensive touch in recent weeks, averaging 43.5 ppg in wins over the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, and are an impressive 3-2 SU and 5-0 ATS this season as betting underdogs.
A Seattle loss against the Cardinals means that the winner of Sunday’s Vikings/Packers matchup will play host to the Seahawks, while the losers will visit Washington on Wild Card Weekend.
Locked in as the No. 4 seed, but eager to extend their current SU win streak to four games, the Redskins visit the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday as 3-point underdogs.
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