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Crucial In Carolina

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The Cardinals need a better showing on the road Sunday than their last trip East, when they lost to the Jets in New York.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Adrian Wilson is home this weekend, playing so close to his High Point, N.C., roots and yet he downplayed such a visit.

As a veteran, the Cardinals' safety said, he's been back to Carolina as a pro. It's no big deal.

Yet ask Wilson about walking the a fine line about "no big deal" and what the Cards' game against the Panthers Sunday means, and he just shakes his head.

"You don't," Wilson said. "It's a big game, period."

The reasons are obvious. The Cardinals, 4-2 and winners of two straight against

When: Sunday, 10 a.m.
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
TV: Fox (Ch. 10)
Radio: News/Talk 92.3 FM and Sports 620 KTAR (pregame on Sports 620 KTAR at 7 a.m.)

good teams (Buffalo and Dallas, would stick an exclamation point on their resurgence with a victory. They would beat a very good Carolina (5-2) team. They would win on the road, always a sticky problem for Arizona. They would win a game despite the three-hour time change and 10 a.m. Arizona start, an issue that has become a huge theme within the NFL this season.

They would also shake up those pundits nationally who still question whether the Cards are a contender or a pretender simply leading a bad division.

"If we can do (win), much like beating Dallas gave us some credibility, much like beating Buffalo which was a good team, it would help," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "But really what I am concerned about is our team believes it can go on the road and win. That's the big step for us."

The Cardinals won their opening road game in San Francisco, then lost a close game in Washington at the outset of their week back East last month. That trip concluded with the turnover-fest in New York against the Jets in a blowout loss that included Anquan Boldin's devastating facial injury.

Boldin should finally return against the Panthers – although he is expected to be limited – with the Cards going on the road for the first time since the Jets' game. This time they face a team already 4-0 at home, a reverse to recent Panthers' teams that somehow struggled at home and won on the road.

"We've been accused of being the other way for so long it's kind of nice to turn it around," Panthers coach John Fox said.

The time change has been a popular subject, but mostly, the Cardinals are tired of discussing the issue.

"This is game number seven and to be truthful, that's all it is," defensive tackle Bryan Robinson said. "Everybody is 'You don't win on the East coast.' You hear about it so you think about it, but we just have to win this game.

"It's a great test for us to see where we are. Everybody was like 'Oh, you beat the Cowboys, you are on your way.' Then the Rams were one-and-whatever and embarrassed them a little bit, so I came back to work and said, 'Guys, yeah we beat the Cowboys but I guess we left a lot of plays on the field.' "

The Cardinals left Arizona Friday afternoon, to give themselves an extra night to cope with the time change. Whisenhunt said the team is comfortable with the schedule and added that he felt his team is usually a little better going through a situation for a second time – in this case, heading back East on Friday.

The Cards came close to beating the Redskins in Washington. Perhaps this is their turning point.

Then again, a loss wouldn't be crushing. No matter what, the Cards will still be in first place after Sunday and with three straight division games after this one, victories then will give them total control of an NFC West crown.

So a win in Carolina may be important – to a point.

"I don't know what it would do in the locker room," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "The Panthers are just the next game on the schedule. This is the most important game on the schedule because it is the next one.

"It wouldn't matter if we played them on the West coast, the East coast, at home, we want to beat them. Obviously we haven't played well on the road. We need to start fast and not turn the ball over. That's all."


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 10/25/08.

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