Carolina Panthers vs. Seattle Seahawks Betting Odds, Analysis, NFL Pick ColumnistJanuary 5, 2015

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) walks on the field against the Arizona Cardinals in the second half of an NFL wild card playoff football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Mike McCarn/Associated Press

The defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks will begin their quest for a second consecutive conference title when they host the Carolina Panthers in an NFC divisional playoff matchup Saturday.

The Seahawks (NFC West) and Panthers (NFC South) both repeated as division champs in 2014, and the former has also beaten the latter on the road in regular-season matchups each of the past two years that both went under the total.

However, teams don't usually cover big spreads at this stage of the NFL playoffs and teams facing spreads of eight points or more are 3-10 against the spread since 2006.

Point spread: Seahawks opened as 11-point favorites; the total was 40.5 early in the week, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

NFL pick, via Odds Shark computer: 31.0-20.1 Seahawks

Why the Panthers can cover the spread

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Carolina has won five in a row to get to this point, using outstanding defense to shut down opponents along the way. The Panthers have surrendered an average of just 11.8 points during their winning streak, failing to allow more than 17 in any of the games.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has also been solid lately both through the air and on the ground, throwing for seven touchdowns and running for three more scores in the four games he's played during the Panthers' winning streak. Newton’s re-emergence as a running threat has been the key for the Panthers offensively, as he has averaged 6.3 yards per carry in those four games.

Why the Seahawks can cover the spread

Seattle’s six-game winning streak is better than Carolina’s because it came against better competition in the NFC West and also includes a perfect 6-0 mark against the spread. The Seahawks regained their championship edge over the last third of the regular season and also have their defense to thank for that progress.

They gave up only three touchdowns combined in those six games, and two of them were scored by the Philadelphia Eagles in a 24-14 victory as 1.5-point road favorites in Week 14. Offensively, Seattle scored 19 points or more in five of the six wins, with five of the games during the winning streak going under the total.

Smart pick

Based on the past two meetings between these teams and their current form, this figures to be a low-scoring game. Together, they averaged 20.5 points in those two games, and these could be the two best defensive teams left in the playoffs.

The lone game for the Seahawks that went over the total during their winning streak came against the same Arizona Cardinals team that the Panthers beat 27-16 last Saturday to go over for the first time in their last four games. Remove the Cardinals from Seattle’s winning streak, and the team is averaging 19.8 points in the five other games, three of which took place at home.

The Seahawks did not score more than 20 points in any of those three games at CenturyLink Field, which is another reason to play the under.

Betting trends

  • The total has gone over in six of Carolina's last seven games on the road.
  • The total has gone under in nine of Seattle's last 13 games at home.

All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.