Is it time to worry about the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks? They are 2-3 and facing a tough game vs. unbeaten Carolina on Sunday in Seattle.
Already Must-Win Game For Seahawks?
Seattle is clearly a different team on the road than at home this season. The Seahawks are 2-0 at home and have allowed just 10 total points in those wins over Chicago and Detroit. They fell to 0-3 on the road -- allowing at least 27 points in each loss -- with a 27-24 overtime defeat in Cincinnati on Sunday. You used to never see the Seahawks blow a 17-point lead but that's what they did in the fourth quarter to Andy Dalton and Co. as Cincinnati forced the OT. Seattle punted twice in overtime, giving the Bengals a chance to win it. Mike Nugent's deflected field goal ended it with 3:36 left. The blown 17-point lead in a loss matched the biggest in Seattle history. It was the fifth time in the past seven games the Seahawks blew a fourth-quarter lead, including the Super Bowl and NFC title game last season. And in all but the NFC title game, the Hawks wound up losing.
There was one bright spot in the Bengals loss and that was the play of undrafted rookie running back Thomas Rawls, who rushed 23 times for 169 yards (most by a Seahawk since Shaun Alexander in 2006) and a 69-yard touchdown while starting for the second straight week in place of the injured Marshawn Lynch (hamstring). Seattle thinks Lynch will return this week but it's not a sure thing. Coach Pete Carroll indicated Rawls will still be part of the offense, even if Lynch returns.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, Lynch doesn't play on the offensive line. Russell Wilson has been sacked 22 times this season, tying Kansas City's Alex Smith for the most in the NFL. Wilson will not make it through the season at this rate. Wilson actually is trying to lose weight and improve his speed as a way to combat the additional pressure he's facing in the pocket this season. That offensive line played really well for three quarters in Cincinnati but then seemed to be fatigued. On their final six drives, the Seahawks totaled 74 yards. They picked up only three first downs.
Seattle might be without one of its most important defensive players in this one as Pro Bowl middle linebacker Bobby Wagner suffered a strained pectoral muscle in the Bengals loss. He's questionable at best. Wagner returned a fumble for a score vs. Cincinnati.
The Seahawks are 1-3-1 against the spread on NFL odds this season and 2-3 'over/under.'
Panthers Healed Up And Rested
Carolina (4-0) is pretty healthy as it comes off the bye week. I'm not sold that the defending NFC South champion is all that good yet. The wins have come against pretty questionable quarterbacks: Blake Bortles (Jaguars), Ryan Mallett (Texans), Luke McCown (Saints; started for an injured Drew Brees) and rookie Jameis Winston (Buccaneers). But the Panthers have increased their point total in each game, finishing with a season-high 37 in Week 4 in Tampa.
Panthers cornerback Josh Norman was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September. It was the first such award for a Carolina defensive back since the franchise began in 1995 -- that seems hard to believe with how good that unit has been in recent years. Norman has four interceptions and has returned two for scores.
It appears the Panthers will have Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly for this game. He hasn't played since the opener due to a concussion but has been cleared by an independent neurologist. The defense is ranked 10th in the NFL without Kuechly, who led the league in tackles the last three seasons.
The Panthers are 3-1 ATS on NFL picks and 2-1-1 O/U.
The teams met in the Pacific Northwest in last season's divisional round of the playoffs. Seattle was a 13.5-point favorite on NFL odds (total was 40) and won 31-17. Wilson threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns, and safety Kam Chancellor returned an interception 90 yards for a TD midway through the fourth quarter to essentially put the game away. It was the longest touchdown in Seattle's postseason history. Cam Newton was 23-for-36 for 246 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. Jonathan Stewart rushed 13 times for 70 yards. Kelvin Benjamin, who is out injured this season, caught seven passes for 70 yards and two scores. Carolina outgained Seattle 362-348 and had nearly 10 minutes more time of possession but also turned it over three times to Seattle's zero.
The clubs also met in Week 8 last season in Charlotte, a 13-9 Seahawks win. Wilson connected on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Luke Wilson with 47 seconds left for the win. It was the third straight year Wilson rallied the Seahawks back from a second-half deficit to beat the Panthers in Charlotte. Wilson finished 20 of 32 for 199 yards and had one interception. Newton was 12 of 27 for 121 yards with an interception and a fumble. In three regular-season games against the Seahawks in his career, Newton has only thrown for 437 yards and one touchdown while being sacked eight times. The last three regular-season matchup have all been very low-scoring defensive battles.
Seattle is 6-2-1 ATS in its past nine at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The 'under' is 13-6 in the Panthers' last 19 games after scoring more than 30 points in their previous game. The 'under' is 17-8 in Seattle's past 25 vs. the NFC.
NFL Free Picks: Seahawks -6.5 (-110) & 'UNDER' 41 (-110) at BetOnline