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NFC final preview

Published: January 20, 2006
Section: Sports


NFC Championship: Seattle versus Carolina
The Seattle Seahawks are probably the least respected number one seed within the last couple of years. Several experts have stated several times even as the Seahawks picked up win after win that they were not a reliable team to root for in the playoffs, they were too soft and will likely fall apart.

I am one of those believers and here are my reasons why:

1. Theyre the NFC west champs, which means that they knocked off a rebuilding San Francisco (4-12), a grossly underachieving Arizona (5-11) and a St. Louis team that lost its coach and sense of direction in the middle of the season (6-10). Am I saying that they received a guaranteed six wins? Yes (though San Francisco came within two points in week 11).

2. The rest of their opponents were not much to sneeze at. They crushed the Houston Texansthe winners of the Bush Bowl, barely beat the Giants after their kicker Jay Feely missed three game winning field goals, and beat a Colts team that was reeling from James Dungys suicide. The teams they lost to? Jacksonville, Washington and Green Bayonly Green Bay not being a playoff team.

3. Their game against Washington revealed how vulnerable the Seahawks are. The Redskins had no second receiver to compliment Santana Moss, running back Clinton Portis was heavily banged up, the Redskins offensive line, already missing their best player (Randy Thomas), lost his back up (Ray Brown) to cramps for extended periods. Finally, the Redskins' front four, save for tackle Cornelius Griffin, scares absolutely no one.

4. Although the Seahawks won, they exposed themselves to be a vulnerable team, committing 3 fumbles and having Shaun Alexander knocked out of the game. What saved the Seahawks was quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and wide receiver Darrell Jackson. Also, their defense was able to shut down Moss and Portis, leaving Washington barely floating.

What about Carolina? During the regular season, the Panthers were one of the most inconsistent teams this year. They would display sheer dominance, such as in week nine when they crushed Tampa Bay. Other games were squeakers when they shouldnt have been, like the 13-9 victory over Buffalo, and on occasion complete embarrassments, namely their loss to Dallas when they allowed Julius Jones to run all over them.

Since, though, they have been unstoppable. That was made apparent after the way they destroyed the Giants on the road and then got a revenge victory against Chicago in a close match. Chicagos defense is better than Seattles and the fact that Steve Smith still got 218 yards against them is cause for concern for the Seahawks.
DeShaun Foster is out for the game and possibly the playoffs, but the Panthers have been 6-2 when Nick Goings is starting and Jake Delhomme, when he is not forcing plays at times, is a skilled leader. Hes similar to Tom Brady in that he wins by finding the open receivers and not making mistakes (which was why those five turnovers doomed New England).

Carolina, though, has two things that Washington did not have, health and a pass rush. The Panthers defensive line, particularly defensive ends Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker, will give the Seahawks offensive line more challenges than the Skins could. This means that the linebackers are free to stop Alexander if he is 100% or disrupt Jackson.

In short, the Seahawks had a good season, they do have a good team and they deserve praise for winning their first play-off game since 1984. Yet their season will likely end against Carolina.