Panthers, Cardinals look to vanquish old guard

Fri Jan 15, 2016 3:00pm EST
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By Jahmal Corner

(Reuters) - If the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals are to begin a new era of NFC reign they will have to unseat the conference juggernauts of recent years during the NFL's divisional playoffs this weekend.

The Panthers (15-1) and Cardinals (13-3) have each enjoyed franchise-best campaigns that have earned them the top seeds in the NFC, but their opponents command respect as annual contenders.

The Seattle Seahawks (10-6) visit Carolina on Sunday as the two-time defending NFC champions, with one unforgettable goal-line interception keeping them from consecutive Super Bowl wins last February.

The Green Bay Packers (10-6) suffered an epic collapse in last season's NFC championship but have remained a perennial threat during an Aaron Rodgers-led era that produced a Super Bowl triumph in the 2010 season.

For both the Panthers and Cardinals, two franchises that have yet to win a Super Bowl, the matchups provide the perfect opportunity to vanquish the old guard.

"Fate gives you these chances to prove yourself worthy," Panthers Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman told reporters. "Why would you want anything in life that's easy? Challenge yourself to be the best, and if you can be the best, beat the best."

Carolina will be led by quarterback Cam Newton, who has been the best during a banner season that is expected to earn him the league's Most Valuable Player award.

Newton tossed for 35 touchdowns and ran for 10 more as the Panthers flirted with regular season perfection, but in the Seahawks he will face one of the NFL's most feared defenses.   Continued...

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports