NFC Divisional Prediction: Seahawks-27, Panthers-24

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A lot of my articles are based on a feeling, which is why sometimes I wait to make any predictions until the last minute.  Much of those feelings are based on statistical research and I’ve done my fair share on this game.

Truth of the matter is, I’m not sure who is going to win this game.  My gut tells me the Seahawks are going to prevail only because time and time again, they have proven they can rise up in critical games and win.

The Panthers have played a wonderful regular season, putting together a 15-1 season isn’t anything to sneeze at.  And they have played some good teams, including beating the Hawks in Week 5, coming from behind at Century Link with Cam Newton directing two 80-yard touchdown drives in the 4th quarter after the Hawks and gotten the lead.

But the team the Panthers played then is vastly different from the team they will play on Sunday.  The Seattle offense, led by Russell Wilson, put together an historic second half.  Just in points scored, the Seahawks averaged 11.12 more points in the final eight games of the season over the first eight games.

The defense, while admittedly blowing several leads in the 4th quarter of games, played statistically even over the entire season.  First eight games they allowed 17.50 points per game while in the second half, they allowed 17.13.

The Panthers did better on both sides of the ball in the second half as well.  Offense scored an average of 28.5 points per game in the first half as compared to 34 points per game in the second.  Defense allowed 20.63 points per game in the first half and 17.88 in the second.

These two teams are similarly built, with a run first, kill the clock and force turnovers mentality.

I give the edge to the Seahawks for two reasons:  QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawk defensive front four.

I don’t want this to be a comparison between Wilson and Panther’s QB Cam Newton.  While their personalities and physical traits are polar opposites, their roles with their respective teams are eerily similar.  Use the run to grind down opposing defenses and to set up explosive pass plays.

It’s going to come down how well Seattle’s defensive line can contain Newton and how well Russell Wilson can sustain drives and put touchdowns on the board.

It will be a close game, coming down to Steven Hauschka field goal with no time remaining.

Hawks prevail, 27-24.

GO HAWKS!

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