NFL Betting – Panthers’ tough SB path starts with Sea.

NFL Betting – Panthers’ tough SB path starts with Sea.

Zack GarrisonNo comments

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers (-3, 44 o/u)

The Seattle Seahawks (10-6, 5-3 Away) barely survived the frozen hellscape of TCF Bank Stadium last weekend, needing some Ray Finkle-esque anti-heroics to get by the Vikings (10-9). The fortuitous squad will now head to the warmer climes of Charlotte this Sunday to visit the top-seeded Carolina Panthers (15-1, 8-0 Home) at yet another venue named after a financial institution, Bank of America Stadium (1:05 PM Eastern).

Featuring balanced offenses and defenses, both look built to make a playoff run. But after last week’s game, and a Week 6 home loss to this same Carolina squad, Seattle has much more reason for concern.

Back in Week 6, the Panthers put together four 80-yard scoring drives and left the Clink with a 27-23 win. Some considered Carolina lucky to escape Seattle with a win; the team trailed by nine late in the fourth quarter and needed a serious defensive breakdown by the usually reliable Seahawk secondary to score the game-winning TD.

“After we played them [in Week 6], we said, ‘We’ll see you again in the playoffs,’” Panthers cornerback Josh Norman told the team’s official website. “It’s cool. Fate gives you these chances to prove yourself worthy.”

There aren’t many around the league who still think the Panthers need to prove themselves worthy.

Carolina not only ended the regular season with the league’s best record, but they had the best scoring offense at 31.3 points per game. The offense was powered by a pounding run game that averaged 142.6 yards per game, second only to the Seahawks.

Seattle head coach Pete Carroll will likely be reminding his players that they eliminated the Panthers in the Divisional Round just last year. But that game was played in Seattle and featured a much healthier Seahawk bunch.

With the absence of running backs Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls over the past month, QB Russell Wilson has had to shoulder a lot more of the offensive load. The pivot responded nicely, though, throwing for career-highs in passing yards (4,024), completion percentage (68.1), and touchdowns (34), while posting a 110 passer rating, also a career-best.

Doug Baldwin emerged as a true number-one receiver in the second half of the year. He posted three 100-yard receiving games and caught 12 of his 14 majors in the final eight games of the year as Seattle sprinted to a 6-2 finish.

Wilson and Baldwin may have to stay hot if the Seahawks are going to keep pace on Sunday. With Rawls out for the season and Lynch questionable to play (ribs), Seattle could boast the underwhelming backfield of Christine Michael and Fred Jackson.

On defense, the Hawks will be looking to the pass rush duo of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to not only get after Carolina QB Cam Newton, but to keep him contained in the pocket. The dual-threat QB ran for 636 yards and ten touchdowns this season while averaging over eight yards per attempt.

Other than the game earlier this season, though, Newton and the Panthers have never had much success against the Seahawks. They are just 1-5 SU in their last six against Seattle. They’re also a concerning 1-4 ATS in their last five playoff games. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games, overall, and 12-3-2 ATS in their last 17 games as a road underdog. The playoff-tested ‘Hawks have a great chance to end Carolina’s dream season.

Pick: Seahawks +3.


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