Happy Blue Friday, 12s. This week we have a great matchup between the Seattle Seahawks visiting the Carolina Panthers. More on that, but first I want to talk about playoff scenarios.
The Seahawks are coming off a loss at Los Angeles (I was there, *eye roll emoji*) where the offense was nowhere to be found/not on the same page/case of the dropsies. The defense could not figure out how to stop Jared Goff from throwing on the run, primarily to tight ends. Defensively, Quandre Diggs came away with a pick-six and an additional interception, but it was not enough.
The loss comes as a wakeup call to the Seahawks who are in a fight to the playoffs, even though they have a 99% chance, according to Cynthia Frelund. Additionally, the Seahawks can clinch a playoff berth this weekend with the following scenarios:
- Seahawks win and a Rams loss or tie.
- Seahawks win and Vikings loss.
- Seahawks win, Packers loss, and Vikings tie.
- Seattle tie, and a Rams loss.
The Rams (8-5) are taking on the Cowboys (6-7) in Dallas so this week is a good week to root for the Cowboys. The Vikings (9-4) are traveling to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers (5-8). Therefore, this will likely be a home game 2.0 for the Vikings since the Chargers cannot seem to sell tickets to their own fans. Regardless, it would be a great week for the Chargers to actually play four full quarters and Phillip Rivers to not throw as many interceptions as he has children.
For the Seahawks to clinch the division, the San Francisco 49ers need to lose when the Seahawks win. However, the division will likely come down to Week 17 when the 49ers are in Seattle. The schedule for both teams is “winnable games” until the clash of the two at the season finale in Seattle.
Okay, on to the Panthers matchup. The Panthers are coming off a blowout loss against the reeling Falcons. They managed to put up 20 but gave up 40. QB Kyle Allen threw for 293 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Allen also rushed for a score, while fumbling twice, and was sacked five times. Christian McCaffrey had 11 carries for 53 yards and 11 receptions for 82 yards but did not find the end zone.
On the defensive side, Carolina only sacked Matt Ryan once, allowing him to throw for 313 yards and two touchdowns. Devonta Freeman and Brian Hill combined for 146 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. However, the moral of the story is that Carolina gave up 300+ yards in the air. This is something the Seahawks and Russell Wilson should take into consideration.
A couple of other notes: The Panthers are 3-12 in November and December over the last two seasons and the Panthers have allowed 24 rushing touchdowns this season—, which is the most in the NFL.
Time to dig into some statistics. I added a column from last week to show the difference between the previous two weeks’ averages. Let’s just say, last week’s game was not helpful in the stat column. First, we will start with the offense:
The Seahawks still rank top-5 when it comes to total offense. Unfortunately, they also rank high on the fumble counts. The Seahawks are able to obtain first downs and have a median 40% third-down conversion rate. The Panthers, however, do not have a powerful offense. They have Christian McCaffrey and that is about it. They rank low on total offense, fumble rate (just behind the Seahawks), and third-down percentage.
Defensively, the Seahawks and Panthers are fairly generous to opponents when it comes to total yards and first downs. They both rank near the bottom of the league in the total yards allowed per game. The Seahawks have forced 22 fumbles on defense, which puts them in the top of the league. For first downs and third-down percentages, both teams are somewhat equal.
I expect the Seahawks to push the ball downfield and score via the rush. As mentioned, the Panthers are charitable in both of those categories. For the Panthers, I expect McCaffrey to have a busy day carrying and receiving. If they can limit him, they can mitigate scoring opportunities for Carolina.
The Seahawks still are one of the premier rushing teams, however, that might slow with the injury to Rashaad Penny, who was just placed on the Injured Reserve to make room for Ethan Pocic. I do not expect Chris Carson to take the full workload, but I expect it to increase from the already heavy load. I am excited to see Travis Homer get some action this weekend. He was my preseason favorite to back up Carson.
On Wednesday, the Seahawks signed Xavier Turner, a rookie out of Incarnate Word (Texas). The Seahawks are top-3 concerning rushing yards per game and attempts per game. Again, fumbles are an issue. Carolina is in the top half of the league with rushing yards, and Christian McCaffrey ranks third with 1220 rushing yards on the season. McCaffrey is only 61 yards short of being the top rusher in the league. He has tallied 12 rushing touchdowns and 4 receiving touchdowns this season thus far. Additionally, Christian has 726 receiving yards so far so he could reach the 1,000 rushing / 1,000 receiving yards running back this season. He could be the first player since Marshall Faulk in 1999 to accomplish this feat and the third player in history to do so (Roger Craig, SF, 1985).
On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers are near the bottom of the league in terms of rushing yards per game. The Seahawks are stingy to running backs, ranking in the top-10 for rush attempts allowed. Opponents know the defensive front of Seattle is stout and will likely exploit the passing woes the Seahawks have. While Diggs has made a difference in the secondary, short passes and screens still haunt the Seahawks for yards after the catch. I expect McCaffrey to be busy doing both.
My guess is that McCaffrey is going to have under 100 rushing yards from scrimmage, but will surpass the century mark receiving (screens and check-downs). This is a good Segway to my final category of passing and receiving.
There is a lot to unfold right here, so I’m going to do it as briefly as I possibly can. Here is what I notice and is likely the key takeaway is that on offense, Carolina’s QBs have thrown a lot of interceptions as well have gotten sacked 50 TIMES! Defensively, Carolina is the second-best in the sack column, racking up 47 this season. They are tied with the Seahawks with third-best in total interceptions.
I expect Russell Wilson will be under a lot of pressure. He has a knack for holding on to the ball and scrambling which will likely work out in the Panthers’ favor. Conversely, so will Kyle Allen. Fortunately, Allen makes mistakes with fumbles and interceptions where Wilson just loses yardage.
This will be a defensive game. Both teams are decent on that side of the ball, but Wilson has the definite edge under center. Seattle has the rushing edge, even though McCaffrey is on his way to a career season. I expect Chris Carson to have a massive game on the ground. I also expect Seattle to be quiet on the passing front.
Tyler Lockett has been underutilized for the last few weeks, partially due to illness and injury. Hopefully this week he can break out once again. Last week, there were key dropped passes that turned the ball over to the opponent. I want to believe the Seahawks have tuned up their pass-catching abilities to ensure simple, yet critical passes, are not dropped.
Injuries for the Seahawks:
Those who did not participate on Thursday include DE Jadeveon Clowney, TE Luke Willson, CB Shaquill Griffin, LB Mychal Kendricks. Limited participants were T George Fant, DE Ziggy Ansah, DT Al Woods, and T Duane Brown.
As mentioned, with Clowney and Kendricks out, that stings the defense. However, Ansah and Woods were back practicing which is a great sign for both. Russell could use the strength of Brown and Fant to help prevent spending any time on his back this game.
A list of actives and non-actives will be posted on Twitter @CascadiaSN when it becomes available—usually Sunday morning.
As always, I expect a close game. Both teams are more than capable of beating each other and it seems that Carolina likes to beat up on the Seahawks. However, with Cam Newton out, I’m going to say the Seahawks put up at least 30 this week with at least six of those points coming from the defense. The offensive line needs to hold up against the speedy defensive front of Carolina in order to open up the passing game for Russ.
Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below! In addition, a special shout out to our new writer and Englishman Andrew Hughes who will be at the game in Carolina!