Less than 10 months after the Carolina Panthers reached Super Bowl 50, it appears that their chances of even getting back to the playoffs are all but eliminated. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t among the most talented teams in the NFL, and they should play a close contest against the Seattle Seahawks on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 13.
Going 4-7, the Panthers have been the victims of a difficult schedule. Most recently, they lost on the road by three points to the Oakland Raiders, who are tied for the best record in the AFC. Such a victory would have been one of the most impressive wins by any team in the 2016 season, but a loss put Carolina in the basement of the NFC South.
Six of the Panthers’ seven losses have come against teams that are over .500, and one of those defeats occurred when Cam Newton was forced to sit because of a concussion. Only two of Carolina’s losses have been by more than a field goal, and the Panthers might come up just short against a top team once again.
Despite losing on the road to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12, the Seattle Seahawks are one of the NFL’s top Super Bowl contenders. They are in line to secure the NFC’s No. 2 seed, and they have the best chance of any team to upset the Dallas Cowboys and win the conference.
Seattle’s offense has been inconsistent this season, and their defense is the biggest reason why the team has a comfortable first-place lead in the NFC West. The Seahawks have given up fewer points than any team in the league, and they only surrendered 14 points in their recent defeat.
But good offenses have been able to turn games with Seattle into high-scoring affairs, and that’s what Carolina will look to do on Sunday. Having faced three of the NFL’s top eight scoring teams, the Seahawks have surrendered at least 24 points in each of those games. Considering the Panthers score 26.2 points per game — good for seventh in the league — with Newton under center, the Week 13 contest could be another offensive showcase.
Carolina’s defense has looked good at times, but its secondary has faltered against top tier quarterbacks. Linebacker Luke Kuechly might miss another game with a concussion, giving quarterback Russell Wilson a chance to put up some big numbers.
Outside of Tom Brady, it doesn’t get much better than Newton and Wilson when it comes to NFL signal callers. Newton was the league MVP a year ago, and Wilson led all quarterbacks with a 110.1 passer rating. The quarterbacks haven’t run the ball as much this season, which has hurt their production, but they still lead high-powered offenses that can score in a moment's notice.
Ultimately, Seattle has the edge at home because of their ability to get defensive stops late in games. It’s how they’ve gotten wins over teams like the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills. Conversely, late-game mistakes against teams like the Raiders, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs are the reasons why the Panthers will miss the postseason.
Seattle is a 6.5-point favorite at Las Vegas and online sportsbooks, via OddsShark, and Carolina might cover the spread and push the total past the over/under of 44.5 points. But if the Panthers have proven anything this season, it’s that they’ll find a way to lose against one of the league’s premier teams.
Prediction: Seattle over Carolina, 33-28