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NFC Playoff Point Spread Wobbling Around -2.5 in Panthers-Seahawks

Posted by Matthew Forrester on 1/17/2016 9:09:18 AM

Even after Blair Walsh shanked an unbelievable miss in last weekend’s game, I couldn’t help but feel that it was the best possible result. Minnesota deserved to win that game, but I didn’t want to be robbed of a chance to watch Seattle and Carolina try to bring the apocalypse down on each other. The NFC playoff point spread on this epic war is hovering around the natural home line, and that’s absolutely fitting.

This is even as football games get.

The Panthers and Seahawks have formed one of the most unlikely rivalries in the NFL. They play in opposite corners of the country, but have happened to play each other five times in the last three years. Cam Newton and company won the last one in a thrilling 27-23 victory, but the Seahawks hold the edge overall with a 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS record in those five games. That includes last year’s meeting in the divisional round last season.

It’s tough to really say who has the advantage here and who doesn’t. The Seahawks are coming off an absolutely dreadful performance against Minnesota, but the weather was a huge factor in that one. Overall, Seattle grades out as a promising bet with a 6-1-1 ATS record when playing opponents with winning home records. They’re also 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games overall, and their style of play definitely has a preference for warm weather.

But the ongoing criticism of this offense is that they simply heave the ball downfield over and over and over again until they connect on something. People are talking about Doug Baldwin’s amazing catch, but they’re ignoring that Wilson threw that exact same throw two drives later and it led to a costly interception.

It’s one of those things that makes it tough to wager on or against the Seattle Seahawks with this narrow NFC playoff point spread. They are always hunting for the big, momentum changing play…and somehow they always get it.

Seattle Seahawks (11-6) at Carolina Panthers (15-1)

Sunday, January 17th --- Bank of America Stadium --- 1:05pm EST

NFC Playoff Point Spread – Carolina -2.5 (42)

However, that doesn’t mean that it always turns out well. The Seahawks should have lost the game against Minnesota after being bottled up for the most part by an above-average defense. The Blair Walsh miss, like the Lockett play and the Baldwin one-hander all seem to tell the same old story: the Seahawks strike oil more often than they don’t.

So the question for me in this game is whether Carolina can prevent that from happening, and most signs point to an emphatic “yes”. It’s not just that they did it before, but this defense grades out far better than the one Minnesota had last weekend. The Panthers rank 4th in rushing yards allowed and 11th in passing yards, while allowing just 19.2 points per game. Part of the reason the NFC playoff point spread in this is holding fast for Carolina is because of Josh Norman and that secondary.

If anything, Carolina rarely gets exposed for the type of big plays Seattle goes for. We’re not talking about Odell Beckham Jr. winning or losing a one-on-one matchup here either. Instead we’re discussing the Seahawks’ penchant for banking on outright miracles. Let’s not get misguided here and suddenly believe that this receiving corps is other worldly. The Panthers don’t give up those types of plays to the types of players Seattle has catching passes.

And even if they do, the lack of methodical scoring by Seattle can be disrupted easily by a Carolina offense that seems impossible to both get off the field and stop from scoring. Cam Newton totaled 299 yards and 3 touchdowns in their last meeting, adding two picks. The Panthers invite a bruising fist fight at all times, and can take similar shots down the field. They’re the top scoring offense in the whole league.

So all things being equal, the main difference here is that Cam and the Panthers can score when and how they want to. They’re not hoping for hail mary’s, or low-percentage plays to come through. Carolina purposefully marches down field using a stiff rushing attack and a capable passing game that ranks out better than you might expect.

By every stretch and determination, this is a relatively even bet on both sides, but the fact that Carolina can dictate more on offense compared to Seattle is the bigger x-factor. If you feel like betting on Seattle, then by all means go for it. But I’m not investing in a team that banks on the improbable. It’s much more likely that the Panthers turn this in to a clock killing, low scoring affair in the UNDER and frustrate Seattle’s offense by spoiling all the efforts they make to take shots down field.

That’s why the pick for this NFC playoff point spread is Carolina. Take the team that’s been dominating all-season based on sheer force of will.

NFC Playoff Point Spread Free Pick – Carolina -2.5 (UNDER)


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