Well it is time to see the 12th man in full throttle this Saturday night as the Seattle Seahawks look to begin another run at the Super Bowl against a Carolina Panthers team that has won five straight games en route to a division win and a Wild Card round win over the Arizona Cardinals.
While the Seahawks look to become the first team in ten years to win back-to-back Super Bowls, they face a Panthers team that currently has a defense playing at an extremely high level, and is probably the only defense that comes close to being compared to that of Seattle’s. Seattle’s defense is playing at a level that perhaps surpasses their performance from last season, becoming without a doubt the main reason why this team has won it’s last six games in a row to earn a first round bye. Of course the crowd at CenturyLink Field will be deafening as per usual and the fans have been waiting two weeks for this game to happen, therefore likely making things very difficult for Cam Newton’s Panthers. However, be careful not to write off Ron Rivera’s crew as they were thought by many to be finished midway through the regular season.
Let’s take a more in depth look at these two teams and see what the oddsmakers have in store for us.
Don’t look now but a team that finished the regular season at 7-8-1 and was playing in a division that was the laughing stock of the NFL has won a playoff game and has earned a shot at knocking off the defending champions. I would love to sit here and tell you how great Cam Newton was and how he carried this team on his shoulders in to the big dance, but that would simply be an insult to this defense. I realize the Arizona Cardinals were playing their third string QB in the form of Ryan Lindley, but take a close look at the following numbers: The Panthers defense gave up 27 rushing yards and 51 yards through the air for a grand total of 78 yards against in last week’s victory at home. I don’t care who is playing Quarterback, it’s still the NFL and giving up 78 yards in a playoff game is astonishing and is also the lowest yardage allowed ever in a playoff game. Interestingly, somehow the Cardinals managed to score 16 points, becoming the first team to score more than ten against the Panthers in their last five games. Like the Seattle defense, the Panthers unit really turned it on in the second half and carried this team in to the playoffs. Led by Probowl Middle Linebacker Luke Kuechly, who lead the league in tackles this season with 153 and had 10 against Arizona last week to rank third in the Wildcard round, the Panthers’ defense has a real shot to hold down a Seattle offense that hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire this season. If they can contain Russell Wilson and more importantly limit Marshawn Lynch, the Panthers will be right in this game despite going up against the league’s best defense.
Offensively, Marshawn Lynch has been the beast that Seattle needs to score points and he is by far the biggest factor in this game for the Seahawks on the offensive side of the football. Russell Wilson always will have the ability to use his legs to create and extend plays, but this offense severely lacks an aerial attack. With the Panthers front seven playing such good defense right now, it will be interesting to see just how much Pete Carroll’s team will utilize Lynch, but I get the feeling Wilson is going to need to put points on the board in order to move to the NFC Championship game once again this season. However, there won’t be an overwhelming amount of points required for Seattle to be victorious this Saturday. Seattle’s defense was frightening good down the stretch. In their last six games, they allowed just 39 points total and did not give up a single point in the fourth quarter of any of those six games. They surrendered just 66 yards per game on the ground and 136 through the air in that stretch, and gave up just three touchdowns. Best of all, they held five of those six opponents to a crazy 7 points or less! How is that even possible? They finished the season as the best defensive unit in football for the second straight year as they gave up only 15.9 points per game, with the majority of that ‘damage’ coming in the first half of the season. It’s also promising that the Seahawks have held Cam Newton to just a single touchdown over their last three meetings. With the crowd behind them, there is no doubt Seattle’s defensive unit will be the ultimate challenge for any opponent in this year’s playoffs. However, as mentioned, points need to be scored offensively for Seattle and this will only be made possible if the Seahawks’ weakest link in the form of their O-line can have a superb game and hold up against a tough defensive front from Carolina.
Seattle -11 (-110) @ 5dimes.eu
Carolina +11 (-110)
OVER 39.5 (-110)
UNDER 39.5 (-110)
My Pick – UNDER 39.5 (-110)
Simply put, this game just has too much defense and not enough offense to put a significant amount of points on the board. We have the league’s best defense over the last two seasons playing a home playoff game coming off of a bye. We have a visitor who has given up an average of just over 11 points over their last five games, while winning them all. We have two Quarterback’s that ranked in the top three in QB rushing yards this season, thus very likely to keep the ball on the ground and try and win the game that way as opposed to utilizing their equally poor passing games. As mentioned a couple of times but can’t be stated enough, the CenturyLink field atmosphere will make things so very difficult on Cam Newton. I’ve been to a game there this season and I couldn’t even hear the person next to me when the opponent (Dallas) had the ball, and that was in the regular season when the team wasn’t at it’s best. The 39.5 total is higher than I expected coming in to this game so I will take advantage and put my pick in for UNDER the 39.5 total in what will be a field goal contest this Saturday Night in Seattle.
*Note: I also really like Carolina +11 here. If you can get them at +12 at a reasonable price I would do that too. With both defenses playing so well I see this game as a very close one throughout. I think 11 points is way too many here as I expected the line to be around 7 or 8. I like the UNDER more, but if you are looking to bet the spread I would go with the Panthers.