Predator vs. Prey is a weekly column that will feature a preview of the Panthers’ opponent for that given week. We will breakdown the X’s and O’s, match-ups on both sides of the ball, and predict the outcome for the game. Whether it’s Sunday, Monday or Thursday night, CatCrave.com has you covered for everything you need to know leading up to the big game.
Predator: Carolina Panthers
Prey: Seattle Seahawks
Environment: Bank of America Stadium - Charlotte, NC
Time of Kill: 1PM
The Carolina Panthers return home to the confines of Bank of America Stadium for their week-eight matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
Carolina opened the 2013 season at home against Seattle, and fell in a low-scoring affair.
Seattle is now reigning Super Bowl Champions, have established a dominating “Legion of Boom” defense and are looking to halt a two-game losing skid. Russell Wilson has come back down to earth since a breakout rookie season and is finding the journey at the NFL level is not as easy as it once was.
Marshawn Lynch is still a beast in his eighth season in the NFL, and sees a lot of opportunity against a Panthers’ defense that has not been able to stop the running game. The Seahawks looked pedestrian in the passing game last week in their first game since the Percy Harvin trade. If Carolina can contain Lynch, and ask Wilson to beat them through the air, the Panthers can be victorious.
Containing Russell Wilson in the pocket and not letting him out in space will be critical to the success of the Panthers on Sunday.
Defensively, Seattle boasts a physical and towering secondary. For the first time all season, Kelvin Benjamin won’t own such an advantageous edge over the defenders.
Up front, the Seahawks are weaker than 2013. They lost Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and Clint McDonald to free agency.
This newly revamped front line has not fared as well this season, and has been gashed by opposing offenses.
Predator on Offense:
The name of the game is Cam Newton.
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
He looked great two weeks ago, but couldn’t get into a groove last weekend playing from behind. The Seahawks defensive backfield is stout, so look for Newton to grind out 12-15 carries, and keep the linebackers and safeties at bay.
It is imperative that the underneath game is working, so Greg Olsen, Brandon Williams and Jerricho Cotchery will need to get open. The Seahawks have already pointed out that they will zone-in on covering Olsen, so Cam will have to be smart with his reads.
Speaking of reads, I anticipate Newton going back to the read-option more this week. He is lethal when running it properly, and Carolina will need to hammer out the running game against a suspect defensive line. Bobby Wagner is still recovering from a turf toe injury, so the linebacking unit can also be exposed.
The Panthers are yet to establish a solid running game this year. Jonathan Stewart left Green Bay healthy, so he will get the start again today. However, the Panthers’ running backs will be in short supply. Chris Ogbonnaya left with a groin injury on Friday, and Fozzy Whitaker and DeAngelo Williams have already been ruled out. That leaves Jonathan Stewart, Darrin Reaves and Tauren Poole.
Predator on Defense:
The Panthers play much better at home. I anticipate the defense is due for a game where they step up and lock down a team. Kawann Short is the man to watch today on the interior. He is athletic and quick enough to penetrate, but can also stunt well to possibly drop into contain.
Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis remain the two players that need to be focused in order to keep their defensive mates positive.
Slowing down Marshawn Lynch is going to be quite a task for the Panthers’ defense. He is a big bruising back that rarely goes down on initial contact. The linebackers will have to crash and tackle better than they have this year. Swarming is the name of the game for this defense. Eleven bodies all with the same vision and mission – stop Lynch from going into “Beast Mode”.
The Carolina secondary will trot out yet another starting five after the release of Charles Godfrey. James Dockery will get the nod in the slot and will return to the Panthers’ starting lineup today. Communication will be crucial to a secondary that is the weak point of this defense.
Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports
Russell Wilson is efficient when given time and is capable of carving up opposing defenses if given the time. The secondary will have to lockdown their assignments, swarm the ball and tackle soundly.
This game was supposed to be a showcase of two fierce defenses, but 2014 has not lived up to the hype for either unit.
I foresee an entertaining game between Predator and Prey…..a cat and mouse game if you will. In the end, the Predator is most comfortable in its’ lair, and prevails.
FINAL VERDICT: CAROLINA - 24 SEATTLE -19