Expert's Final Thoughts On Seahawks vs. Panthers Playoffs Matchup

Ted Sevransky

Saturday, January 16, 2016 8:56 PM GMT

The Seattle Seahawks visit the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. Carolina is favored by 2.5 points on the NFL odds board and the total has been set at 44.

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NFL Pick: Over 44
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

 

The Panthers offense has been searching for respect from the betting markets and the national pundits all year. I’ve read more than one preview of this game still referencing the Kelvin Benjamin injury from the first week of the preseason as if it was still meaningful in some way.  It isn’t.  The mainstream narrative surrounding the 15-1 Panthers is that they are a good team that feasted on the weak, not a great team worthy of their record.  I’m not buying that argument either.

Carolina QB Cam Newton is likely to be the 2015 MVP when the votes are tallied.  Newton was nothing short of elite all year.  He finished the season with only ten interceptions and a 99.4 QB rating, but even that doesn’t tell the true story, because it doesn’t factor in his scrambling ability as the team’s second leading rusher with ten TD’s on the ground. 

Greg Olson, Ted Ginn and Devin Funchess all averaged better than 14 yards per catch this season, taking advantage of Carolina’s aggressive downfield passing game.  RB’s Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker both look like they’re going to suit up, leaving Carolina with a healthy complement of running backs as well.  This Panthers offense has hung 33+ on six of their last seven opponents.  They’ve scored 27+ 13 times in their last 14 games, an offense that just hasn’t gotten the respect they deserve.

When these two teams met back in Week 5, the Panthers offense worked just fine against this Seattle defense.  With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks D allowed back-2-back 80 yard touchdown drives against them, losing the game in outright fashion as TD favorites on the NFL odds board. 

It’s surely worth noting that the Seahawks defense failed them when it mattered most once again last week – with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, allowing that long Vikings drive into chip shot field goal range.   It was a similar story in their loss to Cincinnati, their near-loss to Detroit and their home losses to the Cardinals and Rams over the back half of the season.  Seattle’s defense this year simply isn’t capable of slamming the door shut when they’ve got a late lead.

But Carolina has a pair of key injuries in their secondary, missing two of their top three cornerbacks following late season injuries to Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere.  That’s bad news against Russell Wilson, coming off the best season of his career and a worthy MVP candidate as well.  The Seahawks offensive was stymied in the frigid conditions of Minneapolis last week, but gametime temperatures here are projected to be in the 40’s. 

Like Carolina, the Seahawks receiving corps has been underrated all year.  Since their bye week, Seattle has hung 29+ on seven of their nine opponents, in large part due to Wilson’s brilliance.  The Doug Baldwin/Jermaine Kearse/Tyler Lockett trio all averaged at least 13 yards per reception, and while that group is not making pro bowls, they’re grabbing highlight reel catches on a weekly basis. 

With Marshawn Lynch back in the lineup, we can expect improved balance on offense from the Seahawks, making that downfield passing game even more potent.  The first meeting between these two produced 50 points and I’m expecting similar offensive production in the rematch between these two truly elite signal callers. Take Over 44 with your NFL picks.