Carolina Panthers fans this week have been consumed with the upset, with the “maybe it could happen” and the “we’ve been so close three years in a row.” They want to believe their team can beat Seattle.
The NFL historians among them point out that the past eight teams who have won the Super Bowl have failed to win a single playoff game the next year. They remind each other that Carolina either led or was tied for 59 of the 60 minutes against Seattle the last time the teams played in October.
It gives me no pleasure to throw cold water on these proceedings.
But the Panthers are not going to win this game. Seattle is simply too much. It’s not because their fans are so loud, either, although that doesn’t hurt. It’s because the Seahawks’ best players are too good and there are too many of them.
Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch, Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor – you could make a decent argument that all six of them are among the top two or three players at their positions in the NFL.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera has admitted the past two weeks it feels like Carolina is playing with house money. There is no shame in that. The Panthers’ season seemed to be over at the start of December. Then Carolina won five in a row and got to a place this weekend where 24 NFL teams on the outside looking in wish they could be.
But the ride will end across the country in Seattle.
Look, many of this game’s most important players have played each other for three straight years, all in Charlotte. Seattle has won all three.
Now it’s the Panthers who have to travel, and the Panthers who will have a long time on the flight home to think about when it went sour.
I think the Panthers will keep it close for a while, but not forever. I am picking Seattle to win 20-10.
And if I’m dead wrong? Email me at email@example.com. Hit me with your best insult. I will answer every email and apologize repeatedly for my lack of faith.
And if Carolina wins, I will choose two Panthers fans at random among all those who email and invite them to come hit me in the face with a cream pie in front of The Observer building. Then I will take them to lunch – after changing clothes, of course.
I’d like to be wrong. I actually like cream pie.
But I don’t think I will be tasting it anytime soon.