Cardinals vs. Panthers: Top Fantasy Bets, Predictions for 2016 NFC Championship

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Cardinals vs. Panthers: Top Fantasy Bets, Predictions for 2016 NFC Championship
Chuck Burton/Associated Press
The Carolina Panthers seem to have the advantage in Las Vegas.

The NFC Championship Game isn't as black and white as its counterpart, where Tom Brady-Peyton Manning paints an obvious narrative.

No, the encounter between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers has much more in the way of depth that bettors have to worry about, especially for those looking to not only bank on the outcome, but the spread, moneyline and other lines they manage to dig up.

It's elite defense against elite defense, quality running back against quality running backs and two can't-miss quarterbacks squaring off at Bank of America Stadium Sunday.

Here's a look at the notable top bets available.

Game Details

When: Sunday, January 24 at 6:40 p.m. ET

Where: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina

Television: Fox

Tickets: ScoreBig.com

Over/Under:  47.5

Spread: Carolina (-3)

Moneyline: Arizona (+150), Carolina (-170)

Spread and Moneyline Analysis

It's not much of a shock to see Carolina as the favored team, nor is the spread much of a surprise.

After all, Cam Newton accounted for 45 total touchdowns this year while making history. His top target after tight end Greg Olsen was Ted Ginn Jr., who caught 44 passes for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jonathan Stewart ran well out of the backfield, but Newton posted 10 touchdowns to his six.

Arizona head coach Bruce Arians touched on what makes the Carolina attack difficult to prepare for.

"It's kind of like back in college, getting ready for the wishbone," Arians said, according to ESPN.com. "You don't see the quarterback in this league run (with that) power very often. So they give you so many different, unique sets that you have to account for."

Not that a defense led by Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman should go unmentioned. Carolina finished sixth in scoring at 19.3 points per game.

Though defense might not be at a premium, as NFL.com's Chris Wesseling pointed out:

In fact, Carolina mostly seems to be the favorite in applicable categories because of the venue, which makes for a pretty interesting betting situation for those looking at the Cardinals.

Carson Palmer, who managed to stay healthy and sling 35 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, didn't allow his Cardinals to have much of an issue on the road this season. When he wasn't getting help out of the backfield from Chris or David Johnson, receivers Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd drove opposing defenses mad.

Though the Arizona defense might struggle on the road, Palmer looks liable to torch a secondary that, outside of Norman, is rather hobbled and ineffective, having allowed three consecutive passers to surpass the 300-yard mark.

As Odds Shark points out, 62 percent of bettors continue to go with the over, which makes sense based on the numbers above. It gets trickier when looking at team numbers, with the Cardinals 6-2 against the spread as a road team and the Panthers 7-2 against the spread at home.

It's no surprise, then, the spread hasn't moved much.

Prediction

In the end, this comes down to the Carolina run game against the Arizona passing attack. 

It's hard to ignore what Newton has accomplished this year, but it's even harder to dismiss what looks like the deepest cast of offensive weapons in the league around Palmer.

For that reason, one has to expect Carolina might have issues moving the ball against an elite defense while trying to find room on the ground. It's also safe to think Palmer can exploit Carolina reserves in the secondary because Norman cannot be everywhere at once.

Look for the teams to smash the over/under, with Palmer pulling away late and helping brave souls make solid coin ahead of the Super Bowl.

Prediction: Cardinals 28, Panthers 24

Stats courtesy of NFL.com and accurate as of January 22. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football FocusAll betting information courtesy of Odds Shark.

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