Wednesday, January 18, 2006NFC Championship Breakdown: Offense
These are four pretty evenly matched teams. In the case of the NFC, Seattle has the gaudy record, but they have the weak schedule and even a victory over the Redskins doesn't erase the stigma of being a good team rather than a great team.
The Panthers are hardly a great team, but they are tough as hell and it seems like the more banged up and bruised up they are, the tougher they become. Let's see how it shakes out.
Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck is the NFC's Pro Bowl quarterback and one of the best QBs in the league. Jake Delhomme is a scrapper who saves his best performances for the biggest game. There's no question that the talent edge goes to Hasselbeck, but Delhomme is much better in the playoffs (4-1, 3-0 on the road) and has victories in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia to his credit. The Seattle crowd, as tough as it is, should not have an effect on him. Hasselbeck proved last week that he can carry Seattle to a postseason victory but can he do it twice? One thing this playoff season has taught us is that the guy who's been there before has the edge, however slight it may be. Slight Slight Slight Edge: Carolina
Running Back: If Shawn Alexander is healthy its not even close. He should play, but with a concussion it'll be hard to see how long he goes. Mo Morris is servicable, but he's not considered a quality backup. The Panthers are down to third-stringer Nick Goings, who has considerable experience and actually rushed for five 100-yard games last season when he was called on. Mack Strong is one of the best lead fullbacks in the game, if not the best. Since Alexander will play, the edge has to go to the Seahawks. Edge: Seattle
Receivers/Tight Ends: Steve Smith was the best receiver in the league in 2005, while I expect the Seahawks to challenge him at least a little better than the Bears, he's going to get open and catch some balls. Carolina's other receivers are more known for their strong blocking within the running game than their catching ability. Seattle has been banged up at this position, but Darrell Jackson caught nine balls for 143 yards with his broken-down body. He's in considerable pain, but he's playing. The Seahawks have Joe Jurevicius and Jerramy Stevens as other receiving options, but in this case one is greater than three. Edge: Carolina
Offensive Line: Walter Jones is the premier offensive tackle in the NFL. He anchors a strong line with Chad Hutchinson and newly-installed bad boy Sean Locklear. They are an excellent pass protection line and they paved the way for 1,800 yards from Alexander. They will have their hands full with the Panthers' defensive line. Carolina's line should inclue tight end Kris Mangum as they do a good bit of max protection. Jordan Gross and Jeff Mitchell are the leaders on a good line that stresses conditioning for long, tough ground-based drives. Edge: Seattle
Kickers: John Kasay didn't have one of his best years, going 26-of-34 but he's perfect in the postseason including 3-for-3 last week against Chicago. Josh Brown wasn't much better, going 18-for-25, but he's got a big leg, kicking 5-of-8 from 50 yards or further and seems to make his best kicks from the longer distance. His knowledge of the Seattle conditions gives him the edge in this case. Edge: Seattle