After narrowly escaping Minnesota with a win, the Seattle Seahawks will pay a visit to the NFC’s no. 1 seed, the Carolina Panthers, in the Divisional round this Sunday. Earlier in the season, the Panthers beat the Seahawks 27-23 in Seattle and for this playoff game, they are currently -2.5 favorites playing on their home turf. With two defenses playing lights out, it might just be another low scoring affair.
2015/16 NFL Playoffs: Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers
Point Spread: Panthers -2.5 Over/under: 44 Date: Saturday, January 17, 1:05pm ET Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
The offensive explosion Seattle experienced late in the regular season came to a screeching halt against the Vikings’ stingy defense, as they only managed to score 10 points. They’ll face a similar opponent with the Panthers, who are allowing just 19 points per game, and will need to find balance in order to move the ball. With Marshawn Lynch’s status still up in the air, Christine Michael will need to help take the pressure off Russell Wilson and the passing game by finding some open running lanes.
After shutting down the league’s leading rusher last weekend, they’ll face MVP candidate Cam Newton, who’s come on strong this season as a pocket passer. With one of the best secondaries in the NFL, the +2.5 underdog Seattle team can take advantage of the Panthers’ lack of a true no. 1 receiver to limit Newton’s big play options downfield. If they can cover deep, their powerful front four will find enough time to take the mobile QB down.
There’s a lot of pressure in being the top dog in your conference, and it will be interesting to see how Newton responds. Against Seattle earlier in the season, he managed one touchdown pass and two interceptions. He’ll need to be better this time around facing the Seahawks and will need help from his receivers, who have had plenty of drops this season, and assistance from the running game to help loosen up the secondary.
Defending the improvisation of Wilson is likely to be the biggest task for the -2.5 favored Panthers, which means they’ll need to play contain upfront and rely on Josh Norman to shut down Seattle’s no. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin. If the Panthers can take away Wilson’s favorite target and limit his mobility, they may be able to keep the score low enough for the offense to take advantage.
Divisional NFL Playoff Prediction
According to their record, the Panthers were the best team in the league this year but that doesn’t mean they’re playoff ready. They’ll face a team that has shown they’re capable of showing up when it counts, which could just be the small advantage they need to advance.