So many individual matchups play into the Seahawks’ divisional-round playoff game at Carolina. Stopping Carolina’s multifaceted rushing attack and freakishly athletic quarterback Cam Newton are prime, of course. And the play of tight end Greg Olsen was a major factor in the Panthers’ win over the Seahawks in Week 6 at Seattle. On the other side, can the Panthers contain the run-pass threat of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson?
But in a larger sense, this is a heavyweight battle between the 15-1 Panthers and the two-time defending conference champion Seahawks. They have played each other so frequently there is going to be little that comes as surprise to either team in terms of scheme. All these games have been brutally physical.
And therein lies the key to today’s game: Who makes the big hits, who forces the fumbles, who gets the best push at the line of scrimmage? Those are the things that have determined the outcome of the recent meetings.
Watch for this early: If Marshawn Lynch is in action for the Hawks, at some point he’s going to be met near the line of scrimmage by Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly. If Lynch powers past him, Seattle wins. If Kuechly stone-walls him, Carolina wins. That’s the kind of game this will be.