This game had to be circled on the calendar for the Seahawks at the beginning of the year. After all, the Panthers last year in a way took the Seahawks' throne as darlings of the NFC with a 15-1 record, Cam Newton seemed to have displaced Russell Wilson as the young quarterback du jour with his play and radiant smile; oh, and the Panthers beat the Seahawks twice last year.
The first time was early in the regular season, and it drove Seattle into a state of deep crisis as Greg Olsen hauled in a Cam Newton pass for the winning touchdown with little time remaining. Then in the NFC Divisional round, it seemed the Panthers were on their way to a route before the Hawks mounted a furious comback only to fall short, losing 31-24 in Carolina.
Not to mention in what has made the media rounds this week, Cam Newton tore down a fan's 12th man flag and threw it away, kind of a view into Newton's character many chose to overlook last year but we can get into that later.
This time around though, the Panthers are 4-7, including 1-4 on the road (the NFL tends to correct itself once a team actually has to play decent competition). And Carolina comes to Seattle at not the most opportune moment, because even though the Hawks lost last week in Tampa, Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett will be retunring to the lineup this week as well as Deshon Shead and starting linebacker Mike Morgan. Shead's absence was definitely felt last week, even though the defense only allowed 14 points.
On offense the offensive line should get some help with center Justin Britt coming back, we saw last year after Patrick Lewis stepped in at center how much a competent center can boost an o-line unit.
But the key to a Seahawks win will be Thomas Rawls. Seattle needs to get him going early and often. Rawls has played in two games now, which should be enough to get him into shape for a full load. What's more, Darrell Bevell needs to stick with the running game and not abandon it at some point. At the end of the day, if Rawls only doesn't even have 20 carries, I would predict that he is either injured again, or the Seahawks will lose. For years this team has won by wearing down an opponent through a bruising running game, before via Marshawn Lynch; and Rawls is that same kind of runner.
Running the ball is a key facet this week, because even though the Panthers sport a sub par record, they still have Cam Newton, which makes them dangerous.
Photo: Flickr/Keith Allison