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Seattle – Carolina By The Numbers: Stats And Recent History Favor Seattle

Friday, January 15, 2016


Since the start of the 2012 NFL season, Carolina and Seattle have faced off five times, with Seattle winning four. Four of the five contests were decided by 6 points or fewer, and it stands to reason that this Sunday’s showdown will be equally close, and hopefully, equally great.

In fact, the only game with a box score separated by more than a touchdown came in last season’s divisional round of the playoffs, and was not decided until a fateful play late in the 4th quarter with Carolina trailing 24-10 and facing 2nd and 4 from the Seattle 13 yard line with just over 6 minutes remaining. Cam Newton’s pass was intercepted by Kam Chancellor on Seattle’s 10 yard line, who returned the pick for a 90-yard TD, sealing the Seattle victory.

This season, Carolina finally fought past the Seahawks, taking a 4 point lead with 32 seconds left in regulation on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Greg Olsen. Prior to the Panthers’ late surge, Seattle had held the lead from the eight-minute mark of the second quarter.

This series, while lopsided in wins and losses, is about as close as you can get in statistical production. Both teams have very similar stats against each other, and the good news this week is that their combined yards and points for the series is trending upward, and would leave one to believe that this week may be the offensive showcase that the rivalry has been lacking.

These two teams are clearly built to stop the other, and while their personnel may not be a mirror image, their production against each other is pretty darn close.  Cam Newton may be slightly bigger and more athletic than Russell Wilson, but it would be tough to argue which is the better passer or runner.

Wilson and Newton have put up very similar numbers across the board, and while Wilson has been at the top of the league in total wins the last few years, Newton has held the edge in overall numbers, and is starting to catch up in wins as well, coming at a time when Wilson is starting to finally get the stats of an elite passer. While neither has the overall stats to put them in the top-5 QB discussion for their career (for now), they are without a doubt the best match for each other, take a look at their per-game averages over their careers

Newton holds the slightest edge in yards, while Wilson has a small advantage in completion percentage and QB rating, and the two players are at a draw in scores and giveaways. You’d be hard pressed to find two QB’s with such similar numbers, but Cam and the Panthers appear to be Russ and the Seahawks’ equals in the NFC now that Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers have gone back to the drawing board.

The similarities do not end there, and while the two teams’ overall numbers may not appear to be on the same level, take a look at the statistical comparison below. Some numbers are right on top of each other in ranking, while others have a bit of a gap between the two teams.

The biggest takeaway here is that Carolina played teams with an 8% lesser winning percentage than Seattle did, and that takes a chunk out of the gap in overall record. The Panthers lost just one game all year, but they lost Charles Tillman late in the year, and may be prone to giving up more big plays than they would have if they were healthy.

While the pieces are far from interchangeable, one could argue that Jonathan Stewart and Marshawn Lynch are very comparable when healthy, as are the duos of Greg Olsen/Ted Ginn and Doug Baldwin/Luke Willson. Josh Norman and Richard Sherman are two of the best cover corners in the game, Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner are among the best young MLB’s, and Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril will have a tough time outdoing Charles Johnson and Jared Allen rushing the passer.

The corners that start across from Norman and Sherman could very well determine the winner of this game, as will the receivers who line up across from said corners. Seattle will continue to roll out DeShawn Shead, while Carolina will need to decide if they want to go with youth (Teddy Williams) or experience (Cortland Finnegan). Either player will have a tough time replacing Charles Tillman, who was lost in the season finale to a knee injury.

At safety, the ageless Roman Harper and young rising star Kurt Coleman will have to play level with Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, two of the best in the game. Coleman has had a pro-bowl caliber year with 7 interceptions, while Harper will continue to give the secondary the veteran experience he has been providing all season.

So much of what this game appears to be a stale mate in favor of the fans, but it is tough to draw firm conclusions as to which side will prevail because of how truly similar the teams are.

Based on the numbers, Seattle has beaten Carolina at least once each year Wilson has been under center, and three of those games were in Carolina, so the home field is not necessarily an advantage, but that also depends on if Seattle buys in the “home field” mystique when they are not the ones holding the mystique. Carolina beat Seattle this season on the road, so being the visitor in Carolina provides Seattle the same opportunity, even though the Panthers did not lose at home this season.

The tipping point will be which team has the highest score at the end of the game this Sunday. In the last month, Seattle has averaged 23 points per game, and allowed 13 to their opponents. Over that same stretch, Carolina has averaged 32 points per game and allowed 16 to their opponents. Carolina is allowing just three more points to their opponents, but outscoring them by 16, while Seattle only scores 10 more points than their weekly rivals. If this game is going to go Seattle’s way, they either have to win a shootout, or they need to keep Carolina under their thumb and their backs against the wall. Easier said than done, but that’s nothing different than what they did this time last season, and Seattle came away with a 31-17 victory.

The numbers appear to be in Seattle’s favor, as do the recent trends in this rivalry. The weather is expected to be in the mid-40’s with clear skies at kickoff, a far cry from the brutal cold Seattle faced last week and shouldn’t be a problem or an edge for either side. Vegas oddsmakers have the Seahawks as a 2.5 point underdog  currently, so they must expect this game to be very close, and given the rivalry’s history, they appear to be right on the money.  

It is unlikely to be a shootout, and if there’s one thing the last few seasons have taught NFL fans, it’s that you shouldn’t bet against Seattle in the playoffs, tight game or not. Carolina was absolutely the better team all season, and NFC #1 seeds are 6-4 in the divisional round in the last 10 years, but I expect to see Seattle as the winning team on Sunday.

Stats do not lie, but we will see if Seattle is finally ready to produce on the field the way they did in 2013 and 2014. If they can, they should be able to beat Carolina and head to their third straight NFC Championship game with a shot at their third straight appearance in the Super Bowl.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


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