The Panthers are 5-0 at home this season. Can the Seahawks snap that streak on Sunday?
On Sunday, the 5-5 Seahawks head east to meet the 6-4 Panthers, with major playoff implications for both.
The Seahawks are 3-3 away from CenturyLink Field this season, with road tilts at Carolina and San Francisco still on the schedule.
Here are five things to know about the Carolina Panthers.
1. The Panthers can run the football.
Most Read Sports Stories
- Seahawks 53-man roster projection: Seattle will have plenty of tough decisions come fall | Analysis
- Mariners mailbag: Could Seattle set a record-low attendance mark this week?
- 'I can’t explain this feeling': Seawolves repeat as Major League Rugby champions with try as time expires
- Now and Then? Mariners send Edwin Encarnacion to Yankees for prospect they already traded away
- Mike Leake pitches Mariners to victory, possibly himself into trade discussions
No, they don’t run it as prolifically as the Seahawks, who enter Sunday’s game ranked first in the NFL with 154.3 rushing yards per game and sixth with 4.8 yards per carry. But the Panthers actually average more yards per carry than the Seahawks (5.0) and sit sixth in total rushing (130.2 yards per game).
The primary factor for those numbers is second-year running back and former eighth-overall pick Christian McCaffrey, who has 632 rushing yards, 4.6 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns in games. The versatile 5-foot-11, 205-pound athlete has also added 60 catches for 496 yards and four more scores.
It doesn’t hurt, either, to have a dual-threat quarterback as capable as Cam Newton, who has added 354 rushing yards and four scores of his own.
They both will present a challenge for an inconsistent Seahawks defense that held the Packers to 48 rushing yards and 3.7 yards per rush (on just 13 carries) last week but currently ranks 28th in opponent yards per carry on the season (4.9).
2. Cam Newton may be having the best season of his career.
Speaking of Newton, the 6-5, 245-pound quarterback is completing 68.4 percent of his passes this season, easily the best number of his career. In all, he has passed for 2,443 yards with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions.
A rare Newton miss cost the Panthers last weekend, though. After scoring a touchdown to narrow the Lions’ lead to 20-19, head coach Ron Rivera opted to go for two instead of tying the game with an extra point. Newton had a clean pocket but simply overthrew wide receiver Jarius Wright, who was open on a crossing route in the middle of the end zone.
And though his status for Sunday’s game isn’t really in question, Newton also suffered a left ankle injury in the Lions loss that might hinder his movement skills against the Seahawks.
3. Luke Kuechly isn’t slowing down.
The seventh-year Panthers linebackers has 83 combined tackles this season.
The next-best Panther has 60.
Most importantly, Kuechly — who hasn’t played in all 16 games since 2014 — has stayed healthy so far this season, contributing a pair of sacks and an interception as well. He’ll be tasked with stuffing the Seahawks’ unyielding running attack on Sunday.
Sunday’s game will also feature two of the premier linebackers in the NFL in their respective primes, with the 6-3, 238-pound Kuechly standing on the opposite sideline of the Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner.
4. Extra points are not slam dunks for Carolina.
The usually reliable Graham Gano has only connected on 25 of 28 of them for the Panthers this season. He has surprisingly been more effective on field goals, knocking through 11 of 12 attempts in 2018.
But last weekend’s loss the Lions showcases the importance of a consistent kicker. The 31-year-old Gano missed both an extra point and a 34-yard field goal and the Panthers lost by a single point, 20-19.
Consider, also, that three of the Panthers’ four losses were one-score games and the Seahawks have played seven one-score games this season. If Sunday’s game follows suit, the kickers might prove the difference.
5. The Panthers are 5-0 at home.
They’re also 1-4 on the road.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, Sunday’s game is scheduled for Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. For whatever reason, Carolina averages 31.6 points per game at home this season and 20.4 points on the road.
The last time these two teams met there, the Panthers came away with a 31-24 playoff win in 2015. Sunday’s game will go a long way towards extending the winner’s playoff hopes this season.