After a bye last week, the Seahawks host the Carolina Panthers in the Divisional Round.
Game Day: January 10, 2015
Kickoff: 5:15 P.M. PST
In a rematch of their game in week 8, the Seahawks and Panthers will have much higher stakes this time around. On the line is a trip to the N.F.C. Championship matchup against the winner of the Green Bay vs. Dallas game. That game in week 8 started the Seahawks’ monstrous tear that took them back to the top of the league. Including that game, the ‘Hawks are winners of 9 their past 10 games. The Panthers, on the other hand, are winners are four straight – after dropping 6 straight. That four game winning streak got Carolina into playoffs with a losing record, thanks to the horrendous season put forth by the entire N.F.C. South.
There is a bit of history intertwined with this game. This is only the second time in N.F.L. history that a team has made the playoffs in a full length season with a losing record. Who was the first team to do it? In 2011, the Seattle Seahawks created seismic activity when they entered the playoffs with a 7-9 record. Not only did they enter the playoffs; they won a game. In a game that will forever be remembered for Marshawn Lynch’s Richter-scaled run, the Seahawks took down the heavily favored New Orleans Saints. This time around, they’re the heavily favored team, and the Panthers are the team with the losing record.
Despite the glaring difference in the regular season record, don’t sleep on the Panthers, as both teams are quite similar. You can ask Seattle DE Michael Bennett about that. Both teams have mobile quarterbacks, both emphasize the run game, and both have suffocating defenses.
In regards to rushing, a healthy Jonathan Stewart is on fire as he returns to his home state. He is coming off of an impressive showing against the Cardinals. Seattle’s resident beast, however, is no slouch. Over the past few weeks, he has been as dominant as can be against tough run defenses, such as Arizona and St. Louis. Of the two quarterbacks, Seattle’s Russell Wilson has been the better. He has been efficient all season, and has committed few errors, while getting it done through the air and on his feet. Carolina’s QB Cam Newton will really need to find his game if the Panthers want to stay in this one.
The star of this game will truly be the defense. But the question is: whose defense? Seattle’s defense didn’t get off to the best start this year, but they are now as scary a defense as we have seen in years. The Legion of Boom is as lockdown as it has ever been. On the other side, the Carolina defense has found its way, and is terrorizing teams, even setting a record last week. The stars are coming out for Carolina, as DE Charles Johnson has been on a major role, and linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis have been all over the field. However, the loss of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who broke his foot in practice this week, may be crucial in this matchup.
Seattle’s defense will look to take away the run early, and force QB Cam Newton to make some costly errors. This a not a defense that Newton should have much success against through the air, so throwing the ball downfield may not be his best option. The ‘Hawks will run their way to success. The Panthers may really miss Star Lotulelei as Beast Mode hammers the ball through the line. The odds are in favor of the Seahawks, but don’t sleep on the Panthers.
Featured Image: Seahawks.com / Rod Mar