Seahawks vs Panthers, 3 players to watch
By Dan Viens
These three players could be huge keys to a Seahawks win as they take on Carolina in the divisional round this Sunday.
No matter how you feel about Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers they went 15-1 this year and did it in a very “Seahawky” sort of way; physical and with balance. They scored more points than anyone else in the league while allowing the 6th least. Compare that with the Seahawks (4th in scoring and 1st overall in points allowed) and you have the makings of an epic playoff match up.
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In contests such as this one, sometimes the game can come down to a single play….. or player. So let’s take a look at three Seahawks players who could rise up and have a huge impact on Sunday’s game:
MLB Bobby Wagner
Wagner had a much more “quiet” season than last year, even after signing a four year, $43 million contract extension prior to the opener. But his presence on the field could be the key to slowing down MVP front-runner Newton. Cam has rushed for 56 first downs this year, an incredible number for a quarterback. Wagner wasn’t on the field the first time these two teams played, as he was nursing a strained pectoral muscle. He will likely be assigned to “spy” or at least account for Newton as a runner and can also help in pass coverage. Newton rushed seven times for 30 yards and a TD, and TE Greg Olsen caught 7 balls for 131 yards and the game-winning score. Wagner could be a big factor in helping to limit both of those performances this time around.
WR Jermaine Kearse
Kearse didn’t catch a single pass against Carolina the first time out, but that could change dramatically this time around. With the Panthers sure to focus most of their secondary attention on Doug Baldwin and dynamic rookie Tyler Lockett, Kearse will get his chances. This game puts him back on the field where he hauled in the game-winning 43 yard TD in a win over the Panthers to open the 2013 season, and we all know how much he loves making big plays in the post season as well. Look for Wilson to take a couple shots to Kearse on Sunday.
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CB Jeremy Lane
Lane has now supplanted DeShawn Shead as the starting outside CB, with Shead sliding inside to nickel. He’s already picked off two passes after missing the first half of the season while recovering from the serious injuries suffered in last year’s Super Bowl. The Panthers WR’s aren’t very good, and Newton is unlikely to test Sherman much, giving Lane ample opportunities to make a game-changing play……. or two.