On Saturday, May 12 in 2015, we were promised the fight of the century in Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather. That one didn’t quite live up to the hype. On Sunday at 10 a.m. in Charlotte, we get another chance for a fight of the century. This time it will be between Russell Wilson and the Seahawks and Cam Newton and the Panthers. The two young signal callers are quickly becoming faces of the league and have enjoyed their best seasons to date in 2015- 2016. Carolina comes in at 15-1 and the top seed in the NFC. With that being said, the Panthers will have their work cut out for them in having the unfortunate fortune of landing the two-time NFC defending champion Seahawks in the divisional round. Both teams will be confident in its chances after an even, well fought game in week 5; in which the Panthers came back to beat the Hawks in Seattle. National media is split on who will win, and it’s understandable. It’s also a good thing, that just means we’ve got the fight of the century on our hands.
Keys for the Seahawks:
Contain tight end Greg Olsen
In the week 5 meeting, Olsen torched the Seahawk secondary for 7 catches, 131 yards and a touchdown. There is not a single other receiving threat for the Panthers, other than potential receiver Ted Ginn, but he’s questionable (as of right now) with a knee injury. The Seahawks always seem to have trouble with tight ends, arguably even last week in Minnesota when Kyle Rudolph practically got the Vikings into field goal range on their final drive. It’s time to prove to the world that guys like K.J. Wright and Kam Chancellor can cover tight ends. Sunday morning will be that time, for better or worse.
It seems so elementary, and bear with me for the simplicity of this, but the Seahawks need to score touchdowns to knock off the top-seed. Here’s what I mean:
|Field Position||Yards Gained||Result|
|Carolina 33 yard line||21||Field Goal|
|Carolina 33 yard line||1||Field Goal|
|Seattle 22 yard line||59||Field Goal|
That’s three of the scoring drives from the week 5 loss to Carolina. You can blame it on the defense, or a fourth quarter collapse, or whatever … But the Seahawks left points on the field in that first meeting and that will need to be fixed this time around. If just one of those drives ends in a touchdown, perhaps one of the drives that started 13 yards from the red zone, it’s an entirely different ball game. Leaving points on the field could once again be a kiss of death.
Attack Carolina’s secondary
Last week was ugly, but we’ll chalk that up to the weather. Carolina has a solid defense but its secondary is banged up with Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere both out. Look for Wilson to regain form and surgically pick the secondary apart. Wilson doesn’t necessarily have to throw it for 400 yards, but being able to extend drives and take advantage of Carolina’s weakness in the secondary will help to control the clock and put time of possession in Seattle’s favor. If Wilson and the offense can do that, then that translates to less time Cam Newton is on the field as well as more time for the defense to catch its breath and stay fresh.
Keep Russell Wilson’s jersey clean
In order for Wilson to pick apart the depleted secondary of the Panthers, he needs to stay upright. The offensive line of the Seahawks has remarkably improved since week 5 when they allowed four sacks to the Panthers, but four sacks is a lot and that’s something to watch for this Sunday. The Panther front seven is stacked with talent, two of the sacks in the first meeting came from defensive tackle Kawann Short, and there might not be a lot of running room for whoever is in the Seahawk backfield. If that’s true and the Seahawks get into third and long situations, or any other “obvious” passing down, it will be interesting to see the type of pressure Carolina brings to potentially mask its hindered secondary.