The Seattle Seahawks escaped a near-certain defeat in the opening round of the playoffs and continue their bid for a third straight trip to the Super Bowl when they visit the top-seeded Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon. Seattle squeezed out a 10-9 victory at Minnesota last weekend when Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field-goal attempt in the final minute.
The sixth-seeded Seahawks now get a chance to avenge a regular-season home loss to the Panthers, who erased a 13-point, second-half deficit in a 27-23 victory at Seattle in Week 6. The Seahawks have reeled off six consecutive road wins, surrendering a scant total of 43 points in that stretch. Carolina, which won its first 14 games and pounded Tampa Bay 38-10 in the season finale, was expecting a rematch against Seattle. “After we played them, we said, ‘We’ll see you again in the playoffs,'” Panthers star cornerback Josh Norman said. “It’s cool. Fate gives you these chances to prove yourself worthy.”
TV: 1:05 p.m. ET, FOX.
LINE HISTORY: Since opening as 3-point home favorites, the Panthers were bet all the way down to -1, before bouncing back to -2.5. The total has yet to move off its opening number of 44.
Seahawks – DE M. Bennett (probable Sunday, toe), RB M. Lynch (probable Sunday, hernia), TE L. Wilson (probable Sunday, concussion), FB W. Tukuafu (doubtful Sunday, hamstring).
Panthers – LB D. Mayo (probable Sunday, hamstring), S K. Coleman (probable Sunday, foot), WR T. Ginn (questionable Sunday, knee), LB A. Klein (questionable Sunday, hamstring), RB F. Whittaker (out Sunday, ankle).
WEATHER REPORT: It could be wet in Charlotte on Sunday. It will be partly cloudy wuth a 54 percent chance of rain. Temperatures will be in the low 40’s and there will be a 5-7 mile per hour wind gusting towards the southeast end zone.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Seahawks (-6) – Panthers (-5.5) + home field (-3) = Panthers -2.5
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “We opened Panthers pick’em and that number got decimated by the public, forcing us to get to 3 within hours of opening our number. We got to 3 flat before the sharp’s got involved, they took +3 -110, +3 -115 and +3 -120, at which point we went down to 2.5 and eventually 2 flat. Then the public got involved again and we got back to 2.5 flat and then -2.5 -120, which is our current number. This game has seen some serious line movement and I honestly hate our position going into tomorrow. This should be a very closely contest matchup and I could see 3 coming into play quite easily. In fact, it’s a game that has Panthers by 3 written all over it, and if it lands 3 as of now we get crushed. We’ve only written Seahawks money at the number 3, so all that money would be refunded and all the action on the Panthers that drove us to 3 would cash.” – Pete Childs, supervisor of risk management for Sportsbook.ag.
ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (11-6, 8-8-1 ATS, 7-10 O/U): After surviving ice-box conditions in Minnesota, Seattle is hoping for the return of running back Marshawn Lynch, who practiced fully last week for the first time since undergoing abdominal surgery on Nov. 25 but said he wasn’t ready to go against the Vikings. Russell Wilson, who threw for 241 yards and a touchdown in the earlier meeting, had 24 TD passes and one interception in a seven-game span before being limited to 142 yards against Minnesota. As good as Seattle’s defense has been on the road, it allowed four 80-yard TD drives to the Panthers in Week 6.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (15-1, 11-5 ATS, 10-5-1 O/U): Cam Newton was picked off twice in the first matchup, but he has thrown for 21 touchdowns and only one interception over his last eight games. Greg Olsen continued a trend of tight ends burning Seattle’s defense by hauling in seven passes for 131 yards, including the go-ahead 26-yard TD with under a minute to play. Jonathan Stewart, who ran for 78 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the earlier meeting, will return to the lineup after missing three games due to a foot injury. Carolina’s defense sacked Wilson four times and is third in the league with 40.
* Seahawks are 6-1-1 ATS in their last 8 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
* Panthers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 home games.
* Over is 4-0 in Panthers last 4 games following a ATS win.
* Under is 5-0 in Seahawks last 5 games overall.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is backing the NFC’s No. 1 seed in this rematch from the regular season with 63 percent of wagers on the Panthers. As for the total 68 percent of wagers are on the under.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (-7.5, 40.5)
Peyton Manning knows all too well that the playoffs present a one-and-done scenario. With nine defeats in his team’s initial playoff game on his resume, the 39-year-old Manning isn’t taking anything for granted heading into the AFC West-champion Denver Broncos’ divisional-round clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
“Playoffs, anything goes,” Manning told reporters on Wednesday. “Everything’s on the table.” The veteran missed Denver’s 34-27 setback to Pittsburgh on Dec. 20 due to a left foot injury but entered the team’s regular-season finale and engineered four scoring drives en route to a 27-20 victory over San Diego. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns while All-Pro Antonio Brown made 16 catches for 189 yards in the initial meeting with the Broncos, but both stars were injured during Pittsburgh’s 18-16 wild-card win over AFC North-rival Cincinnati last week. Roethlisberger returned to the contest despite nursing a shoulder injury while Brown was drilled by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict and is in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
TV: 4:40 p.m. ET, CBS.
LINE HISTORY: With injuries to several key players to the Steelers the line was held off the board for the majority of the week and eventually opened the Broncos as 5-point faves and quickly moved to -7. With Antonio Brown out the line moved to -8 and has settled back down at Broncos -7.5. The total has been bet up two points from 38.5 to 40.5.
Steelers – FB W. Johnson (probable Sunday, hamstring), QB B. Roethlisberger (probable Sunday, shoulder), LB R. Shazier (probable Sunday, knee), DE C. Heyward (probable Sunday, back), S R. Golden (probable Sunday, shoulder), WR S. Coates (questionable Sunday, illness), CB D. Grant (questionable Sunday, groin), RB D. Williams (out Sunday, foot), WR A. Brown (out Sunday, head).
Broncos – LB D. Ware (probable Sunday, knee), S O. Bolden (probable Sunday, groin), S D. Stewart (probable Sunday, hamstring), CB C. Harris (probable Sunday, shoulder), QB B. Osweiler (questionable Sunday, knee).
WEATHER REPORT: It should be a nice day for football in Denver. It will be partly cloudy with just a 12 percent chance of rain and temperatures in the mid 30’s. There will just be minimal wind.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Steelers (-3.5) – Broncos (-3) + home field (-3) = Broncos -2.5
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “We opened up a very bad number on the Broncos, opening up
-4 and we paid the price for a poor number.
Our limits were low at the time as we had the game circled with Big Ben
nursing a shoulder surgery and Antonio Brown very questionable because he was
going through Concussion Protocol, we weren’t exactly sure what to open. While we opened up low, we booked this game
very aggressively and it didn’t take much for us to get to 6, then 6.5, and
eventually to 7; then news broke that Brown wasn’t going to play tomorrow we
immediately went to 7.5 which is our current number. So far roughly 65% of the action is on the
Broncos, most of that action between the numbers of 4 to 7 points, and any and
all Steelers money is on them at +7.5, so once again we’re not in the best
position going into this game if it lands 7 it’s going to hurt.”
– Pete Childs, supervisor of risk management for Sportsbook.ag.
ABOUT THE STEELERS (11-6, 9-6-2 ATS, 6-11 O/U): With a sprained AC joint and torn ligaments in his shoulder, Roethlisberger likely isn’t going to throw the ball around with the same frequency (season-high 55 attempts) that he did in the first meeting with the Broncos. Should Brown sit out on Sunday, Roethlisberger will turn to wideouts Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton – as well as trusty tight end Heath Miller – to move the ball down the field. Playing without veteran DeAngelo Williams (foot), the duo of Jordan Todman (65 yards) and Fitzgerald Toussaint (58 yards rushing, 60 yards receiving) provided a backfield presence in the wild-card game.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (12-4, 8-8 ATS, 6-9-1 O/U): Former Steeler Emmanuel Sanders hopes Sunday’s tilt will feature a repeat of his strong performance in the first meeting, when he reeled in a season-high 10 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown. “You get ready for everything, but teams aren’t going to change what they do that much in the playoffs,” Sanders told reporters. “You get ready to adjust, but we do what we do, they do what they do and you execute.” Fellow wideout Demaryius Thomas had two of his six touchdown receptions this season against Pittsburgh.
* Steelers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 Divisional Playoffs games.
* Broncos are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 playoff games.
* Under is 8-2 in Steelers last 10 road games.
* Over is 6-1 in the last 7 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is fairly split in this matchup, with 52 percent of wagers on the Broncos. When it comes to the total, 57 percent of wagers are on the over.