SEAHAWKS’ NEXT OPPONENT
CAROLINA PANTHERS (4-7)
5:30 p.m. Sunday, CenturyLink Field, Seattle
Against the Seahawks: This is the sixth meeting in four-plus years, including two playoff games. The Panthers took a stunning, 31-0 lead in the first half in January in the divisional playoffs in Charlotte and ended Seattle’s season with a 31-24 win. That was on Carolina’s way to Super Bowl 50. The Panthers won in Seattle last October with a late touchdown while confusing the Seahawks’ secondary on the winning pass. Before that, Carolina had lost the previous five meetings back through 2010. The Panthers trail the all-time regular-season series 5-3.
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Line: Seahawks by 6½
What to know: Is this the same team that went to the last Super Bowl? Nope. Cam Newton won last season’s NFL most valuable player award. This season he’s on pace for career lows in passer rating and completion percentage. Brock Osweiler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, Joe Flacco and Blake Bortles are the only starting quarterbacks with a lower rating than Newton’s 81.4. Newton’s 55.8 completion percentage is ahead of only McCown and Colin Kaepernick among league starters. … Newton was 3 for 12 for 18 yards passing in the first half last weekend as Oakland opened at 24-7 lead. … A huge reason Newton has struggled passing: his offensive line, to use the word of his coach Ron Rivera to Carolina media, is a "catastrophe." Newton has been sacked 27 times in 10 games; he was sacked 33 times all last season. You think the Seahawks’ O-line has problems? The Panthers have put both starting center Ryan Kahil and his backup, Gino Gradkowski, on injured reserve. They are on a practice-squad guy at center, Tyler Larsen. Carolina ended last weekend’s loss at Oakland with only one starting blocker from the beginning of this season still healthy enough to be playing in the spot he’s supposed to be: left guard Andrew Norwell. Left tackle Michael Oher is out for the year because he couldn’t get over a concussion. Right tackle Mike Remmers, who got steamrolled by Denver’s Von Miller in the Super Bowl in February, is now playing left tackle for Oher. Remmers’ replacement at right tackle, Daryl Williams, walked out of the loss at the Raiders in a walking boot. Other than that, Carolina’s line is ship shape. … Newton is 1-3 in the regular season (2-4 overall) against Seattle. His regular-season passer rating of 60.0 against the Seahawks is his lowest among all opponents he’s faced more than once. … Timberline High School graduate Jonathan Stewart, born on Fort Lewis, is still excelling in his ninth season. His seven rushing touchdowns are sixth-most in the NFL, and he leads Carolina with 471 yards rushing. … Tight end Greg Olsen remains Newton’s favorite target. He leads the team with 790 yards receiving on 58 catches. … Carolina ranks 14th in the NFL in total offense, 13th in rushing and 19th in passing. Its 25.1 points per game is 10th-best in the league. The Panthers score TDs when they get inside the 20. Their 70.6-percent TD rate in the red zone is second-best in the NFL. … Foes move the ball and score on Carolina through the air. The Panthers’ defense is first in the league in yards allowed per rush – and 29th in passing yards allowed. … Former Washington Huskies star Shaq Thompson is playing less this season. The Charlotte Observer reported he is averaging half the snaps on defense as fellow linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, and last weekend in Oakland Thompson wasn’t in for even 25 percent of the defensive snaps. … Kuechly, regarded with Seattle’s Bobby Wagner as the top middle linebackers in the game, remains out indefinitely because of a concussion. … If Carolina doesn’t sack the QB – it is sixth in sacks – teams have burned the Panthers in coverage. The Panthers’ decision in the spring to rescind the franchise tag on All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman has crushed their secondary. … The most-telling stat for why Carolina’s fans have been talking this week more about draft order than playoff chances: Last season the Panthers led the NFL with a turnover margin of plus-20 while going 15-1 in the regular season. This season they are 23rd at minus-5.
Quotable: We’ve got five games left to go. As I said, there’s definitely, most certainly no room for error. Everything’s still possible. We’ll see what happens." – Panthers coach Ron Rivera to Carolina’s media about his team’s playoff possibilities. Carolina is three games out of the NFC South lead with five games remaining.