* Jake Delhomme has been quite successful against Arizona, but none of his previous games against the Cardinals will carry the weight of the divisional-playoff showdown next Saturday night. (PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES)*
The Panthers have their dance partner for next Saturday night -- the Arizona Cardinals.
With Philadelphia defeating the NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings 26-14 on Sunday night, the Cardinals emerged from the weekend as the highest remaining seed to come out of the two NFC wild-card games, sending them to Charlotte to face Carolina at 8:15 p.m. EST next Saturday night.
FOR THE PANTHERS ... it will be their first divisional-round game in three years, since a 29-21 win at Chicago on Jan. 15, 2006. That was the Panthers' third win in as many divisional playoff games, joining the 29-23 overtime win at St. Louis on Jan. 10, 2004 and the 26-17 triumph on Jan. 5, 1997 over the Dallas Cowboys, which was the last time the Panthers hosted a postseason game beyond the wild-card round.
FOR THE CARDINALS ... this will be their first divisional playoff game since Jan. 10, 1999, when they fell 41-21 at Minnesota. That was the first time the Cardinals had been in the divisional playoffs since Dec. 27, 1975, when an 11-3 season ended in a 35-23 loss at Los Angeles to the Rams. The Cardinals made the divisional round a year earlier, falling 30-14 at Minnesota.
Historically speaking, the Cardinals are infrequent playoff participants, with this season marking their second appearance in the postseason since the franchise relocated to Arizona in 1988. Much hullabaloo was made of the fact that their 30-24 win over Atlanta was the franchise's first postseason home game since the 1947 NFL Championship, which the Cardinals claimed with a 28-21 win over Philadelphia.
UNDER CENTER ... the Cardinals feature Kurt Warner, who returned to the Pro Bowl this year after passing for 4,583 yards and starting all 16 games for the first time since 2001 -- which, not coincidentally, was also the last time Warner guided a team into the postseason.
Warner is 6-2 in the playoffs, making him the second-winningest playoff quarterback still in this year's postseason. Carolina's Jake Delhomme, with a 5-2 playoff ledger, ranks third. The list:
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia: 8-5
Warner, Arizona: 6-2
Delhomme, Carolina: 5-2
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh: 5-2
Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants: 4-2
Philip Rivers, San Diego: 3-2
Kerry Collins, Tennessee: 3-3
Joe Flacco, Baltimore: 1-0
AGAINST EACH OTHER ... The Panthers hold a 6-2 edge and have won five consecutive games in the series, the most recent being the 27-23 victory in Week 8 at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina is 3-2 at home against the Cardinals, with one of the wins coming in the Panthers' inaugural season by a 27-7 count at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.
Arizona defeated the Panthers in back-to-back years earlier this decade, claiming 30-7 and 16-13 wins at Bank of America Stadium in 2002. The Panthers have won all five games against the Cardinals since, including a 20-17 win on Dec. 14, 2003 that clinched Carolina's first NFC South title and its first playoff appearance in seven years.
During the Panthers' five-game winning streak against Arizona, they have averaged 26.2 points per game, never scoring fewer than 20. Three of the five games have been close, with the Panthers winning by three points in 2003, four points (24-20) in 2005 and four points in the Week 8 thriller.