For the second straight season, the Seattle Seahawks enjoyed a bye to kick off the playoffs. The Hawks were able to sit in the comfort of their own homes and watch the competition slug it out.
Due to seeding, Seattle will host the Carolina Panthers with the winner advancing to the NFC Championship Game. Confidentially in 2014, the Seahawks also played an NFC South opponent (the New Orleans Saints) at home in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Here are five stats to keep in mind when the Panthers make their way to CenturyLink Field this weekend.
- 123—rushing yards by Panthers running back and Washington native Jonathan Stewart. Arizona struggled against the run heading into the game. Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore ran for 113 and 144 yards respectively against the Cardinals, but Stewart has been on somewhat of a tear as of late. The Hawks will have to be careful with Stewart.
- 198—passing yards by Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. If you take out a 39 yard screen pass to Fozzy Whittaker, the total drops to 159. Of the six QBs the Hawks have faced in the last six games, they’ve held five to under 200 yards passing. The only two to eclipse that mark, Shaun Hill and Ryan Lindley, didn’t have great games. Hill had 243 yards but also threw two picks. Lindley compiled 216 yards and had only one interception, but completed a mere 18 of his 44 passes. Neither Hill nor Lindley threw a touchdown. In fact, the past six QBs the Hawks face threw a cumulative two touchdowns, both from Eagles signal-caller Mark Sanchez. The caveat is that Sanchez threw for only 96 yards. One of his touchdowns came on a drive that started at the Seahawks’ 14 yard line. The other drive started four yards away from midfield at the Philly 46.
- 39—most receiving yards by a Carolina receiver. Those 39 yards came on the Whittaker screen, which was the running back’s only catch. No other Panther had five catches, with Kelvin Benjamin coming the closest with four. Benjamin was the only Carolina pass catcher with more than 33 yards when the two teams met earlier in the season. He finished with 94 receiving yards, 51 of which came on one play.
- 35—rushing yards by QB Cam Newton. The Carolina signal caller ran for 35 after putting up yardage totals of 51, 63, 83 and 49 in recent weeks. He only had 24 yards on 12 carries against the Hawks earlier in the season, his second worst game in terms of average yards per carry.
- Nine—number of different receivers who caught passes against the Cardinals. The Hawks will have to watch out for Newton spreading the ball around in general, but these aren’t Tom Brady’s Patriots. Of the nine, only four caught more than one pass. Of the five with one catch, three (Brenton Bersin, Mike Tolbert and Stewart) combined for a cumulative four yards. Whittaker’s 39 receiving yards came off a screen pass (stop me if you’ve heard that before) and was predominantly thanks to the running back rather than Newton.
The Seahawks take on the Panthers on Saturday, the winner will advance to the NFC Championship Game.
All stats courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.
There is absolutely no chance I would even consider picking against Seattle at home. I could care less that the 49ers are on a tear and their offense is clicking, etc.
Here are five reasons why the Seahawks will win on Sunday
1. Collin Kaepernick
If you’ve never been to a game at CenturyLink Field, or aren’t a Seahawks fan, you probably believe the ludicrous commercial that shows the Niners’ QB acting unfazed as a horde of “fans” jeer at him like an angry mob. Not only is the commercial a gross overstatement when it comes to Seahawks fans (they don’t officially say that the fans are from/in Seattle, but’s it’s definitely implied), but it’s also a gross overstatement of Kaepernick’s ability in Seattle. Sure, he can act like he doesn’t hear anything walking from the team bus to the stadium, but when he gets on the field in Seattle he looks extremely affected by the crowd noise.
The last time the two teams met in Seattle, Squidward Gargamel Kaepernick posted a horrendous stat-line that would have looked all the more worse without his 87 rushing yards. The numbers are as follows:
13 for 28, 127 yards, 46.4 completion percentage, 4.54 yards per attempt, three interceptions, 14.0 Total QBR and a 20.1 quarterback rating.
Not exactly sparkling numbers there. Part of all this is simply that the Seahawks are tremendous as a defensive unit and make the best QBs look average, or worse. But part of it also has to do with the environment; Kaepernick struggles in Seattle. It’s a little harder to tell on TV, but in person you can tell from his body language that he looks exceedingly flustered by all the noise.
2. Frank Gore
Home field advantage and where the game is played really make a difference for Frank Gore. In the Niners’ Week 14 win he posted 110 yards on 17 carries. Against Seattle in Week 2? 16 yards on nine carries. These both look like outliers in the grand scheme of things, but the rub is that Gore struggles, comparatively, on the road. He has a decent split of home-to-away yards this year with 639 of his 1,128 yards at home and the remaining 489 on the road. However, if you take out his 153 yard outburst in St. Louis the road total dips to 336. That’s good for a stupendous 48 yards a game! The Seahawks won’t hold him to 16 yards like last time, but anything under 75 or 60 certainly won’t be surprising.
(On a somewhat unrelated side note, Gore ran for a total of 150 yards in playoff victories over Green Bay and Carolina. That’s only 10 more rushing yards than Marshawn Lynch gained total against New Orleans.)
3. Rising Interception Rates
Despite not intercepting any of Drew Brees’ passes, it can be argued that the Seahawks could have easily picked off a few passes. Before the playoffs began, the Hawks’ D produced 11 interceptions over its final three games. Given Gore’s ghastly (excuse the alliteration) road numbers in general, and against Seattle, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kaepernick throw more. This would play right into the Legion of Boom’s collective hands seeing as Dan Quinn’s unit has accounted for half of the 49ers’ QB interception total this season.
4. Unleashing the Beast
(If I had a nickel for every time I heard this in relation to Marshawn Lynch this season, I would probably have enough money to buy my own NBA team.)
Marshawn Lynch is heating up at exactly the right time. After a phenomenal 140 yards against the Saints last week, Lynch will look to carry over the momentum against a Niners team that he scored four times against in two regular season meetings. The 140 yards isn’t just an outlier; the former Bills player ran for 97 yards and a score against St. Louis to close out the regular season.
5. Lack of 23 Point Games
The San Francisco 49ers like 23 points. Of the seven consecutive games they have won, in four of them (and the last three in a row) the team scored 23 points. The Seahawks haven’t given up 23 points in a game since Week Six of 2012 when they beat New England 24-23. They haven’t lost a game when allowing 23 points since 2011, before Russell Wilson was even out of college.