SEAHAWKS’ NEXT OPPONENT
CAROLINA PANTHERS (8-8-1)
5:15 p.m. Saturday, CenturyLink Field
Against the Seahawks: The Seahawks lead the series 5-2. That includes their only previous meeting in the postseason. On Jan. 22, 2006, the Seahawks beat Carolina 34-14 in Seattle to win the NFC championship and advance to their first Super Bowl. The Seahawks have won defensive slogs in each of the last three regular seasons by scores of 16-12, 12-7 and 13-9, all in Charlotte. Seattle has hosted Carolina three times in its history, but not since 2010 when the Seahawks won 31-14 in Pete Carroll’s first season as their coach.
What to know: Take the under: The Panthers have allowed just 11.8 points per game during their five-game winning streak that turned them from supposedly buried into champions of the NFC South. Seattle has the league’s top-ranked defense and has allowed 6.5 points per game during its six-game winning streak. … Carolina went 62 days between wins in the middle of the season, from Oct. 5 when it beat Chicago 31-24 until Dec. 7 when the Panthers beat New Orleans 41-10. That was a 0-6-1 stretch in which they allowed an average of 30.1 points per game. So it usually is all about the defense with Carolina. … Specifically, it’s all about Luke Kuechly. He and Seattle’s fellow All-Pro Bobby Wagner are the top two middle linebackers in the league. … Cam Newton completed 12 of 22 passes for 171 yards with and an interception in that game against the Seahawks, who sacked him three times on Oct. 26. … Newton has completed 59.8 percent of his throws with seven touchdown passes and two interceptions while winning his last four starts. Newton’s also been averaging 58 yards rushing per game with three scores on the ground in his last four games, all Panthers wins. … Newton is 0-3 in his career averaging just 146 yards passing with a total of one touchdown and one interception in three games against Seattle. His 54 percent completion rate against the Seahawks is more than five percent below his career rate. … Jonathan Stewart of Timberline High School in Lacey** had 79 yards on 16 carries in the first meeting this season against Seattle. He had 809 yards rushing in the regular season. Stewart is averaging 62 yards rushing in three career games against the Seahawks. … Pro Bowl TE Greg Olson led Carolina with 84 catches for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season. … Seattle had trouble covering tight ends for much of the regular season, until its late surge. … Rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin had 73 catches and nine touchdowns receiving in the regular season, the latter second-most among NFL rookies to Odell Beckham Jr.’s and Mike Evans’ 12.
Quotable: ““We can’t be satisfied. We have a long way to go and we’re anticipating traveling -- and getting another big win next week.” – Panthers QB Cam Newton following Saturday’s 27-16 home win over Arizona in the wild-card round.