The Seahawks and the 12th Man will not know until late Sunday afternoon who we will play in our NFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, January 10th. One of three teams will be traveling to Seattle for that playoff game. If the Dallas Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions this Sunday, the winner of Saturday’s game between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers will play the Seahawks. If Detroit beats Dallas, the Lions will play the Seahawks on January 10th. Here is a brief breakdown of all three potential opponents including who I personally would like to play, and who I think the Seahawks will probably face in their first playoff game.
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers became the second team in modern NFL history to win their division and enter the playoffs with a losing record. Unlike the 2010 Seahawks who went into their Wild-Card playoff game double digit underdogs to the New Orleans Saints, the 7-8-1 Panthers are 5.5 point favorites over the Arizona Cardinals this week. The Panthers are the team I believe the Seahawks will face next Saturday night. Carolina has won 4 straight games and getting to play at home against a backup quarterback gives them an advantage. With a win, the Panthers will record their first playoff win since defeating the Chicago Bears in the 2005 NFC Divisional playoffs.
The Pros: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is the only quarterback of the Seahawks potential opposing quarterbacks to have never played at CenturyLink Field. The fact that he would be playing in front of a playoff revved 12th Man makes the idea of the Seahawks advancing to the NFC Championship Game highly likely. The Seahawks are 3-0 against Carolina all-time at CenturyLink Field.
The Cons: I do not know how Bears fans felt when they hosted the 2010 Seahawks in the NFC Divisional playoffs but I would be a little worried that the 12’s would not treat this game like a true playoff game because of the Panthers record. The fact of the matter is that the Panthers were good enough to get into the playoffs. It shouldn’t matter what their regular season record says. At the end of the day, it’s still win or go home.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are making their first playoff appearance since 2009 but they are stumbling into the playoffs, having lost their last two regular season games with Ryan Lindley at quarterback. I think it is possible that if they can beat Carolina this week, Drew Stanton will be back as the starting quarterback by the time they would play Seattle. The Seahawks have beaten both Stanton and Lindley this season. Stanton played the game in Seattle and went 14/26 for 149 yards and one interception. The Cardinals defense is arguably the best of these three potential opponents and could give the Seahawks the closest game.
The Pros: Now that Jim Harbaugh has left the NFC West, the coach the Seahawks should now love to hate the most is Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians. Arians has stated that he believes the Cardinals can with the Super Bowl with Drew Stanton, but that was when the Cardinals controlled the division by 3 games over the Seahawks. Things have fallen on hard times in Arizona since and it would be awesome to beat this team and the likely NFL coach of the year for a third time this season. This is likely the beginning of an intense rivalry with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cons: This may be the future of our division rivalries but it simply does not have as “hateful” of a feel that playing the San Francisco 49ers three times last year had. I think we would beat Arizona in this playoff game handedly, possibly making the later parts of the game kind of boring.
Detroit Lions: The Lions have not played in Seattle since 2009. They have a talented defense that is capable of stopping Marshawn Lynch. The Lions boast the most explosive offense of any of these three teams and would provide the best and most exciting challenge for the Seahawks defense and the Legion of Boom. I for one would love to see Richard Sherman go up against Calvin Johnson, and to see the return of former Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate. This is the matchup that I would most like to see.
The Pros: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has played in Seattle before but that was when the Seahawks were not very good. He has only played in one playoff game and he lost. The playoff inexperience of the Lions could give the Seahawks a significant leg up in this matchup.
The Cons: None.