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‘A nightmare matchup’ for the Panthers: The rest of the world likes the Seahawks’ chances Sunday

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SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 18: Ricardo Lockette #83 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates a touchdown catch over Kurt Coleman #20 of the Carolina Panthers at CenturyLink Field on October 18, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

SEATTLE – Oh. You again.

For the fifth time in just over three years – and for the second consecutive season in the playoffs – the Seattle Seahawks are preparing to face the Carolina Panthers.

Although the Panthers are 3-point favorites, the Seahawks have history – and a fair chunk of the national media – on their side.

Seattle has won five of the past six games against Carolina, with the lone loss being a come-from-behind 27-23 victory for the Panthers when the teams played at CenturyLink Field on Nov. 18.

Here’s what the rest of the world has to say about the game, which kicks off Sunday at 10:05 a.m. on Q13 FOX, which will begin its coverage much earlier at 6 a.m.

The Washington Post called it a “nightmare matchup” for the Panthers:

“… The Seahawks’ pass rush has been very disruptive as of late, with defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril both ranking in the top five of quarterback pressures at the position this season, and rookie Frank Clark emerging as an effective third option. And not only could they again find success coming off the edge against Remmers, but Carolina left tackle Michael Oher has earned poor pass-blocking grades in two of his last three games. If the Seahawks can get consistent pressure against Newton, the Panthers could have a far tougher time moving the ball than they did in that Week 6 win.”

ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia – along with many others – wonders if the Seahawks will have an answer for Carolina tight end Greg Olsen:

“Seattle ranked 26th at covering opposing tight ends in the regular season, according to Football Outsiders. In the first game, Olsen had seven catches for 131 yards on 11 targets. The film showed that he could have had an even bigger game, but Cam Newton missed him on a couple of big-play opportunities in the first half.

“…  Olsen has been Newton’s favorite target all year (77 catches for 1,104 yards on 121 targets), and defensive coordinator Kris Richard will be spending extra time this week coming up with ways for the Seahawks to match up with him.”

ESPN’s David Newton said Olsen might be a reason people sense the balance of power could be shifting in the rivalry:

Seattle’s mental edge over Carolina is gone. Newton and the Panthers had lost four straight to the Seahawks, including a divisional playoff setback at Seattle a year ago, before rallying for a 27-23 victory at Seattle on Oct. 18. Until Newton led the Panthers to touchdowns on their final two drives, he had generated no more than 17 points in any of the four losses to Seattle.

The Panthers averaged 9.3 points at home in three losses to the Seahawks during the skid. A big reason for this year’s turnaround was tight end Greg Olsen, who had seven catches for 131 yards, including a game-winning 26-yard touchdown with 32 seconds left.

The difference between this and past Seattle defenses is the Seahawks struggled against the tight end, giving up 75 catches for 873 yards and eight touchdowns. A confident Newton with his top weapon in play could be big.

CBS’ Dave Thomas says the Seahawks better bring their “A” game if they want to have a shot on the road.

For Seattle, it must find a way to relatively contain Newton, thought by many to be this season’s MVP. Heading into this Sunday’s playoff encounter, Newton has thrown for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns. When he’s not doing it with his arm, the former Auburn star has amassed 636 yards on the ground. While Newton is certainly a threat to run with the ball, Carolina’s primary rushing weapon is that of Jonathan Stewart, who has 989 yards rushing and six TD’s on the season.’s Judy Battista said the Seahawks are the most dangerous team in their conference:

The Seahawks entered the game as perhaps the most dangerous team in the NFC and exited it the same, having escaped a largely unimpressive game from Wilson, having endured elements that clearly hindered them, even having survived the absence of Marshawn Lynch on a day that was built for a player like him. For a team that has grown used to playing its playoff games at home, this was a different kind of challenge, and they got it out of the way.

“It was an ugly, ugly win,” Michael said. “It was a tough game. It was a blessing we got through it.”

Now that they are through, it is best, even for the 15-1 team that will face them next week, to beware.

The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell said the Seahawks are at an advantage having survived Minneapolis’ subzero temperatures last Sunday:

They got through the miserable conditions that rendered the offense largely inert for most of the game to advance to this Sunday’s divisional-round game at top-seeded Carolina. Though the Panthers are 15-1 and will be at home, the Seahawks feel they will be back to their recently prolific selves on offense in temperatures forecast to be 55 degrees warmer than it was in Minnesota. Sunday’s expected high in Charlotte, North Carolina, is 53 degrees. To those of us who were in Minneapolis yesterday, Charlotte will feel like Qatar.

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