Matchup: Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers
Site: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)
The Seahawks are looking to shake off the disappointment of a loss last weekend. This week, they head to North Carolina to take on the Panthers. The Seahawks are 2-2 and in last place in the NFC West while the Panthers are 1-3 and are in a three way tie for second place in the NFC South. Last week the Panthers lost a tough game to the Atlanta Falcons 30-28, thanks in large part to a couple of big Atlanta gains with under a minute to go which set up the Falcons game winning field goal. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Panthers 3-2. The last meeting was a 31-14 Seahawks win in Seattle in 2010. The last time the Seahawks played in Carolina was in 2007, when the Panthers defeated the Seahawks 13-10. Here is what I will be focusing on this week against Carolina.
The Panthers have one of the most explosive offenses in the National Football League. Since Cam Newton has been drafted, there have been many big plays made between him and wide receiver Steve Smith. The Seahawks have a stout run defense and because of this I do not see a problem containing DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, or Mike Tolbert. My concern this week is the pass defense getting torched by Newton and Smith. On the road, at least thus far, the Seahawks do not have nearly as good of a pass rush as they do at home. Unfortunately because of this, I am expecting Newton to buy a lot of time and be able to make big plays down the field. Brandon Browner among others needs to step up and have a huge game this week since he will be lined up against Smith. If we can stop big plays, especially on third down, the Seahawks defense will be in excellent shape.
One of the underlying struggles on defense has been our tackling ability. Cam Newton may be the biggest quarterback and athlete the Seahawks will face this year. If we can put pressure on him, we need to make sure we do a good job of wrapping him up and bringing him down to the ground. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are also large and physical. Solo tackles will not be the norm against the Panthers. Like in the games at home, the Seahawks have shown that if only one guy goes to make a tackle and can slow him down, that gives the rest of the defense enough time to swarm him and assist in tackling the ball carrier. This is the way the Seahawks will have to play defense this week. If proper tackling is not executed, we will be giving up huge chunks of yards and even points that should never happen in the first place.
The Seahawks are averaging close to 150 yards per game on offense. We have scored only three touchdowns in the red zone this season. This NEEDS to change. Unfortunately for Russell Wilson and the offense, this week we are once again on the road against a defense that has good talent. Having said this, the Panthers are allowing an average of 27 points per game but when you are at home that can always change. I will spare analysis of the running game, since Marshawn Lynch is the NFL leading rusher at this point in the season. This week it is all about Wilson in my eyes. Russell needs to limit turnovers while being aware of everything that is occurring around him. He needs to look down the field and take chances. Wilson has been known to look past wide open receivers for safer options and smaller gains. Part of me thinks Wilson may be afraid to spread the entire length of the field. Whether it is because of a fear of turning the ball over, or not turning down a sure play in the flat, watching our offense is not that exciting. It would be great for Wilson’s confidence to be able to score touchdowns on drives that get the ball into the red zone. Unfortunately Wilson still looks very raw especially on the road. Because of this, I am not convinced anything will dramatically change this week and that we may greatly struggle once again on offense this week.
My one bit about the Carolina Panthers will be their defense. I am putting the spotlight this week on rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly. Kuechly was the Panthers first round draft pick this year and has been playing on the outside this season. This week however, it is looking like Carolina will be without pro-bowl middle linebacker Jon Beason due to injury. Kuechly will most likely shift to the Mike spot this week, the position that he was to move to after Beason left. Kuechly will most likely be calling the defensive packages this week and it will be interesting to see how he does. He will be in a similar spot as Bobby Wagner, who has been calling the plays for the Seahawks on defense this season as a rookie middle linebacker. I think Kuechly will handle the sudden responsibilities with great poise and leadership. Will he struggle at times? Sure. Most players always do but if the Panthers can get into a groove, the Seahawks may be in trouble.
Random Thoughts: Sunday’s game marks the start of the NFL’s breast cancer awareness month recognition. The Seahawks and Panthers will both wear pink gear which includes gloves, shoes, and wristbands among other items. I love what the NFL and the players do for breast cancer awareness month but some of the players go overboard with the pink apparel… The Seahawks have never beaten the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Time for that to change… The Seahawks are playing a rare 1:05 pacific start east-coast game this week. I prefer these games over morning games ten times out of ten… I think the Seahawks leading receiver on Sunday will be tight end Anthony McCoy. Just a hunch… Steve Smith is on my fantasy team. Like I say time and time again to my friends, I would much rather have a Seahawks win over a fantasy win. That being said, I hope the rest of my team scores touchdowns so Steve Smith doesn’t… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call on FOX this week. They are one of the lower play-by-play pairs but I actually like Myers. At least these commentators will not be biased during the broadcast… The Seahawks will be wearing blue jerseys this week. This is because the Panthers have elected to wear white. No word on what color pants we will wear but we have only worn the blue pants with the blue jerseys thus far. If we win, the entire NFC West will be over .500. That is pretty amazing given where the division has been over the past decade.
Prediction: When the schedule came out and I started thinking about this game, I immediately thought about the fact that Cam Newton is at home early in the season. Unfortunately Seahawks fans, I don’t think this game is going to be very competitive. I get the feeling the Newton will rip us apart for the majority of the game. I say Newton scores a rush touchdown and throws for two. This will be the worst performance by the Seahawks defense all season long. The Seahawks will head home and start preparing for the New England Patriots with a 2-3 record.
Panthers 34, Seahawks 17
Look for my review post most likely on Monday evening. Enjoy the game everybody! Go Seahawks!
#ClausenCrusaders You like that Nat?