Hello, Guest!
-NFC Championship - Panthers/Seahawks
By Chris Pokorny, PFCritics Writer
January 21, 2006
Shaun Alexander is the MVP of the National Football League. Last week, the Seahawks were able to survive without him after he suffered a concussion. The Seahawks may not have survived if they were facing a tougher offense though, as the Redskins couldn't get anything going. Steve Smith is arguably the most explosive wide receiver in the NFL. Last week against the Bears outstanding defense, Smith still could not be stopped. Both players are game changers, but only one of their performances will count in this one. Delhomme had shown playoff maturity, while Hasselbeck is finally bringing playoff victories to Seattle. Now that these two teams meet for a chance to go to the Super Bowl, who will come out on top?

Don't forget to bookmark PFCritics and discuss this post at PurelyWrestling.Com by joining the forums their! Also, sign up for our newsletter on the left to get FREE! content like the preview your viewing now right in your mailbox!
NFC Championship - Team Stats
Carolina Panthers - #5 vs. #1 - Seattle Seahawks
- Overall Record: 11-5
Road Record: 6-2
15th overall
(5th rush, 24th pass)
4th overall
(3rd rush, 16th pass)
- Overall Record: 13-3
Home Record: 8-0
5th overall
(2nd rush, 18th pass)
15th overall
(2nd rush, 29th pass)
Positional Rankings (With Last Week's Statistics)
Quarterback vs. Quarterback
Jake Delhomme: 24 of 33 for 319 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception.

Delhomme is now 5-1 in the playoffs and has yet to struggle in a postseason appearance. He does not show any signs of struggling on the road and can just about dissect any defense, as he did against the Chicago Bears last week. John Fox has to be credited for the adjustments that he's made to the offensive line, which gives Delhomme that extra second or two to find Smith down the field. If Seattle finds a way to shut Smith down, it'll be interesting to see how Delhomme adjusts.
Matt Hasselbeck: 16 of 26 for 215 yards, 1 touchdown. 6 carries, 21 yards, 1 touchdown.

Note: Hasselbeck did not have the support of the running game all day long, so he decided to run the ball himself to record the longest postseason touchdown run in Seahawks history. His clutch passing to Darrell Jackson allowed the offense to get through the day without Alexander. Throughout the season, Hasselbeck has shown that even if he doesn't have his best players during the game(Alexander and Jackson), he can work just as well with Engram or Jurevicius.
Running Backs vs. Running Backs
Nick Goings: 10 carries, 34 yards, 3.4 avg. 1 catch, 14 yards.
DeShaun Foster:
16 carries, 54 yards, 3.4 avg. 1 catch, 3 yards.

Although Foster has the potential to break a run better than Goings, the two are almost interchangeable when the Panthers want to pound the ball away. Goings has plenty of experience carrying the load from last year, when both Foster and Davis were down. The situation is exactly the same right now, but the Panthers would much rather have two proven running backs to give one of them a break here and there.
Shaun Alexander: 6 carries, 9 yards, 1.5 avg, 1 fumble, 1 concussion.
Maurice Morris: 18 carries, 49 yards, 2.7 avg. 1 catch, 16 yards.

Note: Alexander had his worst game of the season against the Redskins without a doubt. Not only did he not have any room to run in his first six carries, he had to watch the rest of the game on the sidelines. Morris was not explosive when he came in, but he did a fair job. Don't expect Alexander to feel any ill-effects from last week. He'll be back on his game and ready to run the ball the same way he's run it all season long.
Receivers vs. Receivers
Steve Smith: 12 catches, 218 yards, 2 touchdowns.
Drew Carter:
2 catches, 43 yards.
Ricky Prohel:
3 catches, 28 yards.

Once again, Steve Smith completely dominated the Bears last week. It was so ridiculous that Smith seemed to stand still as the ball floated to him in the air, catch it, and then walk into the end zone. The Seahawks have to realize that it may be better to put two or even three defenders on Smith, and just pray that the rest of the defense can handle one on one or one on two situations.
Darrell Jackson: 9 catches, 143 yards, 1 touchdown.
Joe Jurevicius:
1 catch, 31 yards.
Jerramy Stevens: 2 catches, 13 yards.

Note: The Seahawks have a much more talented overall group of wideouts than the Panthers do, but that really couldn't be said about this group the past few years. All they used to be known for is dropping passes, but the addition of Jurevicius has really increased overall productivity. The team's leading receiver during the season, Bobby Engram, didn't even have to do that much last week.
Defense vs. Defense
Defense: 1 sack, 1 interception, 21 points allowed.

Note: The Panthers defense shut down one of the best passing games in the league two weeks ago(Giants), but allowed the Bears to have quite a bit of success in throwing the ball. The Bears defensive line protected Grossman most of the day, and the Seahawks line will cause problems for the Panthers speedy linemen. The Panthers are very good at now allowing a big play though, so if they allow someone to score, they'll really have to work for it.
Defense: 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovered, 10 points allowed.

Note: The Seahawks should have one priority on defense: stop Steve Smith. It may sound easy, but it's not. If it were easy, then Smith wouldn't be grabbing 10 passes, 100+ yards, and a touchdown or more every week. When the Bears faced the Panthers earlier in the season, they allowed Smith to make plays on the football, and compensated by pressuring Delhomme every other play. That philosophy didn't work for the Bears last week, meaning the Seahawks will have to come out with a scheme that the Panthers have not seen yet.
Special Teams vs. Special Teams
John Kasay: Kasay is a veteran that the Panthers can usually rely on, although that was an awkward extra point that he missed against the Bears.

Kasay wants to get back to the Super Bowl to redeem himself.
Josh Brown: Brown may be a little more comfortable kicking in the rain than Kasay is.

Note: The Seahawks really don't have any glaring holes in their kicking game and should be fine.
Final Analysis
Carolina Panthers vs. Seattle Seahawks
Delhomme has to love having Steve Smith in the passing game, but that can pose a problem for him. Two years ago, Delhomme's playoff success came by throwing the ball to Muhsin Muhammad and Smith on almost every down it seemed. Last week, we saw Hasselbeck make the necessary adjustments when both the MVP of the league and Darrell Jackson left for a portion of the game. If Delhomme either loses Smith or can't get him the ball, what's the next step?

Delhomme is used to having a go-to receiver, and he's also used to being down to his third-string running back. Last year, the Panthers lost Foster and Davis for the season. The Panthers struggled at first, but then Delhomme managed to work with Goings and would have made the playoffs had they won the final week of the season. Now they are back to Goings, showing that his experience without a "top-tier" running back may have paid off.

The Panthers are among the best in the league defensively. If you're going to beat the Panthers' defense, you have to plan on producing a short field through your own defense. It is too tough to go against the Panthers when you're backed up at your own goal line for the risk of their linemen hitting you for a safety. The Panthers will try to take advantage of the fact that Alexander may be somewhat rusty at the start of the game, but if they over pursue, he'll cut back for a big gain.
Hasselbeck has really developed into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFC. After losing two consecutive heart-breakers the past two years (against the Packers via Al Harris, and then against the Rams after an Engram dropped pass), Hasselbeck lost Alexander almost immediately last week. Instead of panicking, he kept his cool and made several amazing throws to Darrell Jackson. If he makes those same throws against the Panthers - I don't care how good your defense is - they can't be defended.

Shaun Alexander had a miserable day last week, but he will make a 100% turnaround this week. He never struggled during the regular season, and I guarantee you that he will not struggle for two weeks in a row all of a sudden just because it's the playoffs. He didn't even have a chance to get going last week before a concussion knocked him out of the game.

The Seahawks offense is sound enough that they will not lose the game for Seattle. That means this game will rely solely on the defense, particularly whether or not a team can stop Steve Smith. Drew Carter, Ricky Prohel, and Keary Colbert are almost non-factors in the equation. No one is going to say that someone on this offense beat them besides either Smith (or Delhomme). If the Seahawks stop Smith, they probably win the game. The question is though, who has stopped Smith?
NFC Championship Prediction
Winner - Carolina Panthers
That's right, the Panthers will be heading back to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years. The Seahawks rank ahead of the Steelers and Broncos in my book, and these teams have the ability to make explosive plays. Earlier this season, Steve Smith and Shaun Alexander were among the highest proposed "MVP-candidate" players. Alexander won the award, but both of these players are true MVP's of their team. The Seahawks survived without Alexander last week because they faced an offense that couldn't find themselves in the postseason. It is not a question of "if" Alexander or Smith will perform up to their expectations in this game, because they have proven that they can get the job done each and every week. When things get that close, a shootout develops. Here's an extra prediction: a shootout in overtime. Panthers win after Steve Smith catches a pass down the middle of the field and slips through the defense, just like he did against the Rams two years ago.
Final Score:
Carolina Panthers 40, Seattle Seahawks 34.

NFL tickets and Super Bowl tickets

Meet Doc's Advisory Board for:

PFC Pick'em
- The 2008 PFCritics Pick'em Challenge is now open for registration. Join Now and win big! Sponsored by sportsbettingstats.com
Add to My Yahoo!

© 2004-2024 PFCritics.com. All Rights Reserved.