Seattle (11-6) at Carolina (15-1)
When: Sunday, January 17th 2016
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Time: 1:05 ET | TV: FOX
The Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers will meet for the second time this season, but this time a trip to the NFC Championship Game is on the line. The Seahawks somehow survived ice-cold conditions last week and defeated the Minnesota Vikings 10-9 when Viking’s kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal in the final minute. Seattle has now won six consecutive road games and have surrendered a total of 43 points in those games. The Seahawks lost to the Panthers in Week 6 in Seattle 27-23 blowing a 13-point second half lead and allowed Carolina to put together four 80-yard TD drives. Russell Wilson threw for 241 yards and a touchdown in that game and had 24 TD passes and one interception in a seven-game span before being limited to 142 yards against Minnesota. Seattle could use the services of RB Marshawn Lynch, who has missed the last eight games after undergoing abdominal surgery. He has practiced the last two weeks and is expected to play against Carolina. The Seahawks had won five in a row against Carolina, including a 31-17 victory in last season’s playoffs, prior to the loss in Week 6. Seattle is two wins away from reaching the Super Bowl for the third straight season. They will travel to Green Bay or Arizona next week if they can pull off the upset on Sunday.
Carolina earned the top seed in the NFC after their terrific 15-1 season, losing only to Atlanta in Week 16. Cam Newton had his finest season to date and will probably win the MVP Award. He finished with 3,837 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions and ran for another 636 yards and 10 scores. Two of his interceptions came in the Seattle game in Week 6, but he has thrown only on pick in his last eight games. Look for him to find TE Greg Olsen, who caught 7 passes for 131 yards and the go-ahead TD in the Seattle game. The Seahawks have a tough time covering tight ends this season. The Panthers will get RB Jonathan Stewart back who missed three games with a foot injury. He scored twice and had 78 yards against the Seahawks this season. Carolina’s defense finished fourth in the league with 40 sacks and got Russell Wilson four times back in October. The Panthers allowed 20 points or less in three of their last four games and scored 38 or more four times in the last five weeks. Two trends going in Carolina’s favor – 1. They have won 11 straight home games – 2. No. 1 seeds are 21-4 in the NFC Divisional Round since 1990.
I don’t like teams coming off a bye especially against Seattle. This Seahawks team is playing with a purpose and it doesn’t matter that they are on the road. It’s really hard to beat a team like Seattle twice in the same year. I think the Panthers offense struggles and Wilson will have a big game now that he’s out of frigid Minnesota.
Pick: Seahawks +2.5