The Seattle Seahawks hopes to repeat as Super Bowl champions start on Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
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The Carolina Panthers, whom Seattle has beaten three consecutive times, though each of those games were decided by less than a touchdown.
The Panthers won the NFC South this season, even with a losing record (7-8-1), but they looked like a legitimate playoff team last week, beating the Arizona Cardinals 27-16 in the NFC Wild Card game.
Can they stay hot and upset the Seahawks in the Pacific Northwest?
Or will Seattle stay in the driver’s seat on their quest to get to Glendale, Ariz., and Super Bowl XLIX?
To learn more about the Panthers, I spoke once again with W.B. Whitted, one of the editors at CatCrave.com, our FanSided brother that covers the Panthers.
Here is our conversation:
1. The Panthers defense dominated the Cardinals last week, holding them to a historic-low 78 total yards. What do they have to do to stop Seattle’s offense the same way they did Arizona’s?
While the Cardinals QB situation was much worse, the wide receiving corps dwarfs Seattle’s lineup. The emerging secondary of Carolina won’t be as challenged without Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd out on the perimeter. If Seattle can effectively pressure Wilson, they will have a good chance to slow down Seattle.
2. The last time these teams played no touchdowns were scored until less than one minute was left in the fourth quarter. Do you expect the same defensive battle from both sides or will one team break through earlier in the game?
These teams are mirror images of one another; great defense and quality running games. There is a reason that the last three games have all been one possession. I’m expecting another tight, low scoring affair.
During much of the Panthers losing streak, Lotuleilei was hurt. When he came back in Week 14, the team began its recent win streak. His pressure up the middle and run-stopping capability are important factors that the team will sorely miss.
4. Few people expect the Panthers to win this game, because of their record and the fact that it’s in Seattle and all that jazz. But from your perspective, how can the Panthers advance to the NFC title game? What do they need to do to upset Seattle?
This game is going to come down to how well Cam will play. He must be sharp early, and avoid costly turnovers. This won’t be a high scoring game, but sustaining drives will be immensely important to tire out the Seattle defense and give the Panthers defense a break.
5. What is your prediction, including the final score, of the outcome of Sunday’s game?
I think it will be another close, low-scoring game. Special teams will be huge with field goal attempts and the upcoming field position battle. Carolina 20 Seattle 17.