Marshawn Lynch, Kam Chancellor and Jermaine Kearse are on our list of five Seahawks particularly intriguing to watch against the Carolina Panthers Sunday.
Here are five Seahawks particularly intriguing to watch in Sunday’s divisional playoff game at Carolina:
1, RB Marshawn Lynch: Maybe the most obvious one of all. I don’t think there’s any idea to know yet how Lynch will play or what he is capable of. My guess is the Seahawks will go in with the idea that he can carry the ball 20-25 times and then adjust if they need to based on how Lynch plays. But as Pete Carroll said Friday, they’ll watch how he does and then make decisions from there. One thing to consider is Lynch’s apparent weight loss, that Carroll alluded to last week. If Lynch has lost a significant amount, will it impact how he runs and the physicality of his game?
2, C Patrick Lewis: The first game against Carolina was also the first that Lewis started for the Seahawks this season. He suffered an ankle injury in the game and then sat out the next two weeks before returning to the starting lineup for good against Arizona on Nov. 15. The Panthers defensive front caused lots of problems for the Seahawks in the first game, and for all opponents this season, specifically tackles Kawann Short — who had two sacks — and Star Lotulelei. The Seahawks have had issues with good interior tackles all season — think Aaron Donald and Linval Joseph last week. So for as much attention as there will be on Lynch, as big of a factor as anyting else will be what the line can do, as well.
3, SS Kam Chancellor: Maybe the best game of Chancellor’s career came last season against the Panthers when along with performing the jaw-dropping leaps over the line to block field goals he also picked off a pass and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to turn what was potentially nerver-wracker into the relative rout that was. Chancellor has been quieter of late, missing the last three regular season games with a pelvis injury. That may have contributed to a little rust last week as he was flagged for a controversial, but still called, pass interference penalty in the final minutes and then beaten for a 24-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph that set up the winning field goal that almost was. Chancellor will be called on Sunday to take a significant role in helping defend Carolina tight end Greg Olsen, a key matchup for both sides.
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4, WR Jermaine Kearse: Kearse has had two of his biggest moments against the Panthers— not THE biggest, obviously, but up there in his top 10. That would be the game-winning 43-yard touchdown in 2013 for what was his first NFL score, and the 63-yard TD that helped break open the divisional playoff game last season. He was also held to no receptions in October when the Seahawks relied largely on Jimmy Graham, who had his best game of the year with eight receptions for 140 yards. But Graham is now gone and the Carolina secondary is beat up a little bit with Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere out for the season, replaced by veterans Robert McClain and Cortland Finnegan. There should be some more opportunities for Keasre in this game and the Seahawks will likely need to convert every one.
5, LB K.J. Wright: Wright had one of the best seasons of any linebacker in the NFL, but didn’t get a lot of accolades to show for it, getting snubbed by the Pro Bowl and only a few votes for All-Pro. This could be the kind of game to put him on a national stage as he will also likely get a heavy dose of guarding Olsen in both man and zone coverage situations. Recall that Wright played middle linebacker in the first game with Bobby Wagner sidelined with an injury, which had Kevin Pierre-Louis playing on the weakside. The Seahawks think they will have a better back seven to defend against Olsen in this game, with Wright at the heart of that.