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NFL Betting: NFC Divisional Round Saturday Preview

Posted by Stan Jenkins on 1/10/2015 8:24:56 AM

The NFL playoffs move into their most fascinating weekend, the weekend when four wild-card winners visit the four teams that earned first-round byes and must now overcome possible rust.

Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks – Saturday, January 10

The Carolina Panthers beat the Arizona Cardinals by only 11 points, but they dominated the game a lot more than the final 27-16 score would ever indicate. The Panthers gained over 300 yards more than the Cardinals, limiting Arizona to only 77 yards for the game, a historically low total. Arizona scored only two touchdowns before a meaningless end-of-game safety the Panthers conceded so as to avoid risking the allowance of a touchdown on special teams. One of those touchdowns came as the result of a fumble recovery deep in Carolina territory, followed by a personal foul penalty against the Panthers that put the ball on the Carolina 15-yard line. Carolina’s defense allowed only one true touchdown drive. It could not have expected to play much better, and this same defense – which allowed only 13 points to the Seahawks in the regular season meeting between these teams – has a real chance of holding down Seattle, keeping Carolina in the game. If Carolina’s defense can limit Seattle’s offense to 13 points, you could truly see an upset happen. The Panthers should be happy to play Seattle in the divisional round instead of Green Bay, since the Packers – with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback – were much more likely to score a big number against Carolina. In a matchup with Seattle, Carolina can stay in the game based on its defense. The Panthers are 11th in the NFL in passing defense, and Seattle is 27th in the NFL in passing offense. If Carolina can contain Seattle’s top-ranked rushing offense and force the Seahawks into third-and-long situations, they can make a game of this.

Where it’s going to be hard for Carolina to win this game, though, is on offense. The Panthers were helped a ton in the wild card game by Arizona’s turnovers and poor punting. Three of Carolina’s scoring drives against Arizona were under 40 yards, and two of those were touchdown drives. Seattle is generally good about protecting the ball and getting good punting from Jon Ryan. As long as the Seahawks avoid making mistakes, their defense is good enough to win games for them. That defense is first in the league against the pass and third against the rush. The Seahawks have allowed more than seven points only once in their past six games. This defense is finding ways to deny touchdowns to the opposition. The Seahawks have gone 10 full quarters without allowing a touchdown. This defense might have to worry about losing rhythm due to the bye week, but on the other hand, injured linebacker K.J. Wright (finger) might be ready to play in this game as a result of having extra rest. This defense endured a lot of injuries in the first half of the season and had a bye week early in the regular season, so a week of rest should still prove beneficial.

Ultimately, Carolina’s defense is good enough to keep this game close, but Seattle’s defense is still what will win the game outright.

Pick: Panthers +11.5

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