For the second straight week, the Seattle Seahawks take on a familiar non-division foe. Few teams have more history with Seattle during the Pete Carroll era than the Green Bay Packers. One that comes close is the Carolina Panthers. Seattle and Carolina have met eight times in the eight years since Carroll joined. The Seahawks won the first five, but have lost two of the past three. They have won all three regular season contests in Carolina, but lost the last one in the playoffs. The last time the two teams met, the Seahawks won 40-7 during the 2016 season.
The coaches know one another, and have a similar preference for hard-nosed offense built around a sturdy running game and explosive passing. Both are defensive coaches, but find themselves with faulty defensive units that are not as elite as they once were.
Carolina has not lost at home this season, and after losing two straight, will see this game as their opportunity to get their season back on track. The Seahawks won a tough game against Green Bay, and are in position to control their playoff destiny with a win this Sunday. Rush defense has been a major issue for Seattle and could be their downfall in this game against a top rushing team. Seattle is 1-4 this season when allowing 3 or more explosive rushes of 12+ yards. Carolina has had at least 3 explosive rushes in every game but two this season, and they lost both of those contests.
Carolina has a lot of trouble rushing the passer. Seattle is 4-1 when Russell Wilson is sacked two times or less. The Panthers have sacked opposing quarterbacks two times or less in six of their ten games. It’s awfully hard to beat Wilson when he has time in the pocket.
Overall, the odds are in the Panthers favor. Seattle will need big plays from a defense that has had trouble creating any of late. This is a beatable opponent. The question is whether this young Seahawks team can play with the intensity and savvy necessary to notch a win in what will be a playoff atmosphere.
The way this works: Each offense will be pitted against the opposing defense and compared on an array of key statistical attributes based on their respective rank in the NFL. The tables that follow show the rank of each unit for each of these categories.
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Seahawks Offense vs Panthers Defense
Panthers key advantages on defense
Luke Kuechly is one of the best linebackers to play the sport. He will be central, literally, to how the Panthers will attempt to stop the Seahawks rushing attack. Kuechly has struggled this year, however, with eight missed tackles. He and Thomas Davis have formed one of the most fearsome linebacker duos in the NFL over the past few years. Davis, 35, has slowed down a bit as well. Mario Addison leads the team with 8 sacks and will match up against Duane Brown much of the game. That will put 38-year old Julius Peppers against Germain Ifedi. Peppers is not the dominant player he once was, but still can give a team trouble.
Seahawks key advantages on offense
The Seahawks offensive line has helped the team rush for over 150 yards in seven straight games, and leads the NFL in rushing yards per game. Seattle has also gone through their easiest stretch of run defenses the last six games. No opponent ranked higher than 18th in run defense efficiency during that stretch. Carolina is 12th. Only the Vikings, who rank 4th, will be a tougher test on the ground. Carolina, though, struggles mightily through the air. They rank just 25th in pass efficiency on defense. Seattle has had their easiest games this season against teams ranked in the bottom third of the league in pass defense. Dallas is 26th. Oakland is 32nd, and Detroit is 31st.
This is a chance for Wilson to take advantage of a weak pass rush and mediocre secondary play. This could be the game where Doug Baldwin Jr. is a focal point. Tyler Lockett should be in good position to add more big plays to his resume.
Panthers Offense vs Seahawks Defense
Panthers key advantages on offense
It all starts with the run game. Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey are explosive. Then they add in receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, who can take short passes long distances. Carolina has to feel good about their chances to create chunks plays against this Seahawks defense. Seattle has very little chance to win this game if they cannot slow the Panthers rushing attack. It has also been three games since the Seahawks created a turnover. This would be a great game to end the streak.
Seahawks key advantages on defense
Chris Clark is vulnerable at left tackle. Frank Clark should have plenty of chances to add to his sack total. The interior of the Panthers line is not great either. Jarran Reed could create some inside pressure. It is hard to imagine the Seahawks defense stopping the Panthers very often on Sunday. It feels like a good game to go for the higher risk, higher reward approach of more blitzes. A few big plays could be the difference.
Michael Dickson is a god.
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