James started his current revival. That was before Carolina's DeAngelo Williams became a touchdown machine. It was before Cardinals rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie emerged as the team's No. 1 cover man, and before the Panthers consistently looked like their 2003 Super Bowl version.
"I don't think (the first game) really has anything to do with this game other than you know the personnel. That's really it," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "The fact we played them or that it was a close game, none of that really matters now."
Carolina coach John Fox echoes those comments, even sounding irritated when it was suggested the Cardinals felt they should have won the initial meeting.
"Hell, there are games we should have won too," Fox said. "That game means nothing. That was a 'W' in our column. And that's why we are playing at home. Every game is a new game. This one will be no different."
The Panthers are 8-0 at home this season and have had an extra week of rest, while the Cardinals can only hope wide receiver Anquan Boldin's hamstring heals well enough that he can play.
The weather also isn't expected to be great – temperatures in the mid-30s and possible rain – which would seem to work against the Cards.
But the team has seemed to flourish in this situation, especially given what is at stake.
"NFL players have a lot of pride and they have a lot of motivation when people are telling them they are not a very good team," Whisenhunt said.
Some Cardinals are clearly irritated by a lack of respect, but, said veteran tackle Mike Gandy, "I don't think we necessarily have earned that respect yet."
"We have won one playoff game," Gandy added. "It's a good steppingstone but I don't think anyone expected us to be in this position in the first place. Being the underdog is what we are used to and I think we are fine with it."
How different are the Cardinals from that day in late October, after a loss that gave them a 4-3 record? The answer becomes a little clearer after this version of the team plays the Panthers one more time.
"We can't worry about what happened in the course of the season," linebacker Gerald Hayes said. "It's a new season."
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 1/9/09.