Are the Panthers the better team, even with Marshawn Lynch expected back for the Seahawks?

Jan 16, 2016, 12:26 PM | Updated: 12:35 pm
Cam Newton and the Panthers hold a Week-6 win over the Seahawks at CenturyLink in the regular seaso...
Cam Newton and the Panthers hold a Week-6 win over the Seahawks at CenturyLink in the regular season. (AP)
(AP)

I think the Panthers are going to beat the Seahawks on Sunday. This is good news.

At 710 ESPN Seattle, we have a segment on the “Danny, Dave and Moore” show in which I make a “Lock of the Week” selection, and my record is 4-13-1. I also write a weekly prediction column, picking Seahawks’ games against the spread, for 710Sports.com. I went 5-10-1 this season.

So if I think the Panthers will win, chances are good that they won’t, and next week the Seahawks will play Green Bay or Arizona in the NFC Championship Game.

When you live in Seattle and pick the Panthers, you’re viewed as being clueless. Or you’re a troll, trying to get page views with a contrarian take on the game. Then again, you might be a hater. You can’t simply have the opinion that the other team is going to beat the Seahawks without 12s thinking you’re an idiot.

I was a sportswriter for 26 years at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and have been here at 710 for the past six years. It’s interesting to see how the coverage of our local teams, particularly the Seahawks, has changed.

Most of us who studied journalism were taught to be objective when we covered sports. You never wanted to be known as a “homer” when you wrote your stories.

That’s changed, or it’s in the process of changing. As a radio personality, it feels like a requirement to be a Seahawks’ fan. The old sportswriter in me resists, wanting to play it straight down the middle. The talk-show host in me says I better get on board.

I got a text the other day from a guy who said he’s not going to listen to our show anymore because he sensed that I wasn’t “All In” with the Seahawks.

I guess he’s right. But when did it become wrong to look at teams and games objectively? I don’t want announcers and writers to sugar-coat and slant everything involving the home team. Maybe that puts me in a vanishing minority.

With the Seahawks, it’s easy to be genuinely positive most of the time. They have gone 11-5, 13-3, 12-4 and 10-6 and taken two trips to the Super Bowl in the Russell Wilson Era.

The biggest story this week is the same as last week – the potential return of Marshawn Lynch, who had abdominal surgery in November. Part of the fan base has turned on Lynch after he was a late scratch for the Minnesota game last Friday.

For the longest time everyone cut slack to Lynch for all of his off-field stuff because of his value as a player. But the Seahawks are 8-2 and the offense appears to be just as good or even better without him. It’s not a coincidence that public sentiment toward him has changed.

I always knew it was a matter of time before it would. When you’re one of the best in the game, you can just chalk it up to “Marshawn being Marshawn.” When you start to slip, what you’re doing isn’t so cool anymore.

If he had played for any other team but the Seahawks, we would have viewed him as a piece of work instead of a vital cornerstone of the franchise.

Whether he plays or not, I’m taking the Panthers because they have the better team and they’re playing at home. That’s oversimplifying things, I fully understand that. Everyone has spent the week dissecting this matchup from every angle.

You could tell me the Seahawks will win because they have more playoff experience and have won the last three games in Charlotte, all with Wilson at quarterback. They also beat Carolina in Seattle in the playoffs last year.

I would counter by saying the Panthers had a breakthrough victory over the Seahawks in October, part of their 15-1 season, and last I checked, 15-1 is five games better than the Seahawks at 10-6.

And you would fire back with something along the lines of Wilson being better than Cam Newton even though the Panthers’ quarterback probably will be the MVP in the league.

Who has the best defense? Statistically, you’d tell me Seattle, and you’d be right. But I’d argue that Carolina was more disruptive, coming up with more interceptions and forcing more fumbles than any team in the league.

The ball wouldn’t be in your court very long – you’d come back with a forehand smash, telling me that I might be right but the Panthers didn’t create a turnover in their 27-23 win at CenturyLink Field in Week 6. Or that the Panthers are missing two key players to injuries from their secondary and weren’t nearly as good down the stretch, allowing 35 points to the Giants and 38 to the Saints.

You’d also say that Carolina played a weak schedule, beating only four teams with winning records, but Seattle lost to the Rams twice.

The Panthers are the No. 1 seed, and we saw the benefit of that the last two years when the Seahawks parlayed the top seed into two home playoff games and two trips to the Super Bowl.

Yes, No. 6 seeds have won the Super Bowl before – Pittsburgh did it against the Seahawks in 2006. And the Seahawks are equipped to do it this year, having won their last six games on the road, allowing just one touchdown in a stretch covering 62 possessions.

In Las Vegas, the game is almost a coin flip with Carolina favored by 1 ½ points last I checked. I’m going to hope the Seahawks win but think the Panthers will prevail in the end.

Prediction: Panthers 26, Seahawks 20
Regular season record against the spread: 5-10-1
Playoff record against the spread: 1-0

The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com, KitsapSun.com and his website, jimmooregocougs.com. You can reach Jim at jimmoorethego2guy@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.

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Are the Panthers the better team, even with Marshawn Lynch expected back for the Seahawks?