Pete Carroll can identify with Ron Rivera’s Carolina Panthers.
Four years ago, the Seahawks were in the same spot: a sub.-500 division winner that won its home playoff game and advanced to the divisional playoff round.
Now the Panthers are trying to do what the Seahawks and five other teams without winning records failed to do over the past decade: Win in the second round.
Since the NFL realigned in 2002, seven teams have made the playoffs at 8-8 or worse, and six have advanced to the divisional round. But none have won.
Like this Carolina-Seattle matchup, each of the five previous games has been a rematch of a game played earlier that season. And, in all but one of those cases, the team that won earlier in the season won the playoff meeting comfortably at home. (Seattle beat Chicago earlier in the 2010 season but lost 35-24 in Chicago in the divisional round.)
As if Carolina didn’t already have enough going against it Saturday.
The Seahawks might not exactly own the Panthers, but you could say they have been leasing with an option to buy over the past three years, winning 16-12, 12-7 and 13-9 in Carolina.
When the teams met in Week 8 this season, the Hawks pulled off the win in the final minute as Russell Wilson hit tight end Luke Willson for a 23-yard touchdown pass. It is not expected to come down to the final minute this time — the Hawks are favored by 11, thanks to a stingy defense that allowed just 39 points over the final six games.
The defense is playing even better than last year at this time — and certainly better than in Week 8, when linebacker Bobby Wagner and cornerback Byron Maxwell did not play and safety Kam Chancellor was at about 50 percent.
The Hawks are pretty thin on the defensive line after Jordan Hill (calf) joined Brandon Mebane, Greg Scruggs and Cassius Marsh on IR this week. But the defense is otherwise quite healthy and ready to continue its domination of Cam Newton.
The No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft has not played well in the three losses to Seattle, completing just 54.1 percent of his passes for 437 yards and one TD.
Meanwhile, the Seattle offense has struggled to put up points against some tough defenses over the past month. But it actually is playing better than it was at this time last year.
In December 2013, the Hawks scored 19 points per game. Wilson completed just 57.8 percent of his passes, with four touchdowns and three interceptions. He ran for just 79 yards.
This past December, the Hawks scored 21 points per game and Wilson completed 60.7 percent of his throws, with five TDs and two picks. He also ran for 170 yards and two scores.
Marshawn Lynch has fared better, too. In December 2013, he ran for 287 yards and three touchdowns on 77 carries (3.7 average). In the final month of this season, he ran for 350 yards and four scores on 68 attempts (5.1 average).
The Hawks might struggle to score against Carolina’s resurgent defense, but Wilson, Lynch and the league’s No. 1 defense will be a lot for the Panthers to handle.