Seahawks at Panthers
The weekend’s most intriguing matchup takes place in Charlotte as both these teams can be considered the hunter and the hunted.
Seattle is the hunted due to winning the last two NFC championships, while Carolina finished with a league-best 15-1 record and came within two weeks of finishing undefeated. Seattle is the hunter as Pete Carroll’s team is back on the road for the second straight week and won’t be able to play any home games this postseason, while Carolina is looking for its first appearance in the NFC Championship since 2005 – when they lost at Seattle.
The Seahawks (11-6 SU, 8-8-1 ATS) dodged a bullet (and elimination) by rallying from a 9-0 deficit in frigid Minnesota to knock out the Vikings, 10-9 in the Wild Card round. Seattle failed to cover as four-point road favorites, but the Seahawks’ defense held Minnesota out of the end zone and received great fortune when Blair Walsh hooked a 27-yard field goal wide left in the final minute.
The game-changing play took place in the fourth quarter when Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson turned a huge loss into a substantial gain when he recovered an errant snap and found wide receiver Tyler Lockett for 35 yards to set up Seattle’s first touchdown. The Seahawks improved to 7-2 in the playoffs with Wilson under center since 2012, but Seattle hasn’t cashed in its last three postseason contests.
The Panthers (15-1 SU, 11-5 ATS) are coming off their third straight NFC South championship after more than doubling their win total from 2014 (7-8-1 record). Carolina won its first 14 games prior to a 20-13 defeat at Atlanta in Week 16, but Ron Rivera’s team became the sixth team ever to finish a regular season at 15-1. The last team to go 15-1 was the 2012 Packers, who were tripped up at home by the Giants in the divisional playoffs, 37-20.
Quarterback Cam Newton put up MVP numbers by throwing 35 touchdown passes and rushing for 10 more scores. The Panthers had only one player finish with at least 1,000 yards either rushing or receiving, as tight endGreg Olsen hauled in 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns, while running back Jonathan Stewart compiled 989 yards on the ground in spite of missing three games.
One of Carolina’s signature victories came at Seattle in Week 6 as the Panthers rallied for a 27-23 triumph as seven-point underdogs. Seattle built a 20-7 third quarter lead before Carolina put up three touchdowns in the final 18 minutes of the game, capped off by a Newton to Olsen 26-yard connection with 32 seconds remaining. Both Wilson and Newton threw for less than 300 yards, while each team’s star tight end racked up at least 100 yards receiving (Olsen andJimmy Graham), as the Panthers overcame a pair of Newton interceptions.
The Seahawks eliminated the Panthers from the 2014 postseason with a 31-17 divisional round victory. Seattle managed to cash as heavy 13 ½-point favorites as safety Kam Chancellor’s 90-yard interception return for a touchdown with six minutes remaining gave the Seahawks a commanding 31-10 lead. Prior to Carolina’s win over Seattle earlier this season, the Panthers owned an 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS record in Newton’s first four starts against the Seahawks, including three defeats at Bank of America Stadium.
Carolina swept its home schedule this season, while covering six times at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers have lost two of three playoff games in Newton’s short career with the lone victory coming against Arizona in the Wild Card round last season, 27-16 as 5 ½-point favorites. The Seahawks have won six of nine games away from the Pacific Northwest this season, while allowing double-digits just once in its last six road victories.