After the Seattle Seahawks started the 2015 season with a sluggish 4-5 record, it felt like their reign of power in the NFC was coming to an end. Having represented the conference in the Super Bowl — with one victory — in each of the past two seasons, their competitors in the conference had to feel like it was their turn to take a shot at capturing the Lombardi Trophy. However, with how things are shaping up for Seattle following their stunning wild-card round victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the stars might be aligning for the boys in the Pacific Northwest.
The Seahawks’ victory last weekend set up a rematch with the 15-1, top-seeded Carolina Panthers. Obviously, this will be a tough game for Seattle to win (so will a potential NFC Championship Game against the Arizona Cardinals or Green Bay Packers), but how much of a chance does Seattle actually have to first beat the Panthers on the road and then secure a third straight Super Bowl appearance with another road victory? Let’s break down their roster and matchups to see if the Seahawks can get it done.
Breaking down the divisional round
The Seahawks couldn’t have asked for a tougher divisional-round matchup than the one they will get with Carolina on Sunday. Led by Cam Newton, the Panthers have only lost one game all season and own home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Their running game with Jonathan Stewart — and Newton — is powerful. Their defense, with Pro-Bowlers Josh Norman and Luke Kuechly, gets timely stops and knows how to make big plays.
Further, in the Week 6 matchup between the two sides, the Panthers were able to get past the Seahawks in Seattle, indicating that they may have figured out the formula to defeat the two-time defending NFC champs. All of this supports a Seattle loss, but the Seahawks also have a lot of positive things going for them in this game. First of all, they’re playing their best football of the season at the right time. Minus a Week 16 loss to the St. Louis Rams, the Seahawks have won every game they’ve played since that 4-5 start (7 out of 8 overall).
Russell Wilson played like the best quarterback in the league over that time span and their defense finished the season by giving up the fewest points in the entire league. Carolina will see a very different Seattle team this Sunday and if they aren’t careful, their 15-1 season could be for nothing with a one-and-done playoff exit.
Potential NFC Championship game matchups
If the Seahawks are able to get past the Panthers this weekend, a road date with the Green Bay Packers or the Arizona Cardinals will await them in the conference championship. Seattle played both of these teams this season, splitting the season series with Arizona and losing to the Packers way back in Week 2.
Seattle ended the season by crushing the Cardinals 36-6 in Arizona, so they have a fair amount of confidence about how they matchup with their NFC West rival. However, Carson Palmer and company have had a brilliant season, and they may have the most balanced roster in the NFL, with strength on offense, defense, and special teams. This potential matchup could produce a memorable game between two teams that know each other very well playing for a shot at Super Bowl 50.
As for the other potential rematch, there is also a lot of history between Seattle and Green Bay. Other than Green Bay’s victory earlier this season, the Seahawks defeated the Packers (in overtime) in last season’s NFC Championship. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have looked sluggish at times this season. They would seem to be heavy underdogs against the powerful Seahawks, but having home-field advantage at Lambeau cannot be underrated. This could also produce a classic clash between two of the most consistent franchises in the NFC today.
What are the odds?
Overall, the odds are against the Seahawks to even make it back to the NFC Championship game, not to mention the Super Bowl. That’s what happens when you earn the No. 6 seed in the NFL Playoffs; you have to win three games on the road against the best teams in the conference. It’s likely that Seattle will have to defeat the top three seeds in the NFC to earn an elusive third consecutive Super Bowl bid.
With all of that said, it would be a mistake to dismiss the Seahawks’ Super Bowl chances. The team is tested, experienced, and built to win in January. Plus, whether it’s something in the Seattle air or the magic touch of head coach Pete Carroll, this team almost feels destined to complete this run through the NFC (just ask Vikings’ kicker Blair Walsh). Something is brewing in Seattle and if they beat the Panthers this weekend, a trip to Levi’s Stadium in February could be all but inevitable.