By Jay Betsill
Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers
Sunday – January 17 – 12:05 PM CT
Bank of America Stadium — Charlotte, North Carolina
Records Before the Game
Seattle Seahawks (10-6, 5-3 away)
Carolina Panthers (15-1, 8-0 home)
The top seeded Carolina Panthers host the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs in a rematch from Week 6 when Carolina rallied to win 27-23 when Cam Newton hit Greg Olson a 26-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds left to remain unbeaten at that point.
It is also a rematch from last season’s Divisional Round game when Seattle topped Carolina 31-17 to knock the Panthers out of the playoffs on their way to their second consecutive Super Bowl.
While the Panthers won their first 14 games en route to a 15-1 season, the Seahawks won eight of 10 to close the regular season and were victorious on the road in last week’s Wild Card game at Minnesota.
Quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Cam Newton will get their share of the pub going into the game, but the key match up in the game will be Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin against the Panthers star cornerback Josh Norman.
“Doug is an explosive guy,” Norman said. “He makes plays whenever he can and he’s a try-hard guy. He does everything he can to beat the defender. I like guys like that.”
Baldwin has 52 receptions for 766 yards and 13 touchdowns since Norman helped hold Baldwin to three catches for 23 yards in October.
Seattle tight end Jimmy Graham had eight receptions for 140 yards in that Week 6 game, but is out with a torn patellar tendon.
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who struggled with 54 yards and a TD on 17 carries versus the Panthers earlier this season, will likely be uncertain until kickoff as he recovers from an abdomen injury. Christine Michael led the way with 70 yards on 21 rushes last week against the Vikings after Lynch opted out.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera is hopeful that running back Jonathan Stewart and wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. will be good to go for the league’s No. 1 scoring offense (31.2 ppg.)
Carolina has won 11 consecutive home games and Seattle has won a franchise-record six straight on the road, so something has to give.
Seattle is looking to join the Green Bay Packers (1965-67), Miami Dolphins (1971-73) and Buffalo Bills (1991-93) as the only teams to reach three straight Super Bowls.
Prediction: Seattle 27 – Carolina 24