Week 5 takes us on the road to Carolina, where the Seahawks hope their play on the road vastly improves before the season starts to slip away in what is shaping up to be a very competitive NFC West. Here are 5 things to watch for as keys to the Seahawks walking out of Bank of America Stadium with a big road win.
1) Spies Like Us
– As you can imagine, the Seattle Seahawks face a unique weapon in Cam Newton. He set all kinds of records as a rookie, and while is off to a un-Cam like start to 2012, can still take over a game if the defense isn’t ready. Look for the Seahawks to try and bottle in his rushing efforts (with already 33 rushes, is the teams 2nd leading rusher) by implementing a “Spy” or “Rover” to hem in the Panthers use of the spread offense and Newton’s elusive abilities. You may find that one Kam may make the other’s day quite long, as I suspect Kam Chancellor may be up for a bulk of this duty. The sure tackling force known as “Bam Bam” may keep the other Cam thinking twice about tucking the ball away and taking off, fearful of being the victim of one of Chancellors signature bone-jarring hits.
2) Skittle Reign
– The Panthers Defense is atrocious. And with the announcement that two of its best players, John Beason and Chris Gamble will miss this contest, it’s only going to get worse. While Week 1 looked promising, only yielding 16 points to the Buccaneers in defeat, they have given up 27, 36, and 30 points, respectively, since. Teams are averaging 135 yards per game on the ground against this group. Don’t think it will stop against the top rusher in the NFL. Look for Marshawn Lynch to go Beast Mode on the Panthers defense. And when he needs a blow, don’t forget about the very capable and emerging Robert Turbin. Throw in Leon Washington as the change of pace back, and I wouldn’t be surprised to watch the Seahawks rush 40+ times in this matchup.
3) 2005: A Blueprint on Shutting Down Steve Smith
– I’ll never forget the 2005 NFC Championship game between these two clubs. Carolina came into the Clink thinking it would walk all over the ‘Hawks and proceeded to get stomped. While both teams find that their entire rosters have changed, there is still one WR on the Panthers who should remember it well. Steve Smith. The Seahawks completely shut this dynamic weapon down that day, and I don’t think it would hurt to pull out the old footage and take a look at the schemes, and coverages used to do so. While Carolina has a decent #2 receiver in Brandon LaFell, they would be hard pressed to come out of this with a win if Mr. Smith is taken completely out of the matchup. Easier said than done, of course. But hey, it’s been done before.
4) 1A and 1B: Stewart and Williams
– I’m not a big fan of Jonathan Stewart. First he spurned my beloved Huskies to go play for the out-of-state rival Ducks where he went on to have a stellar career. And when all was forgiven, I draft him onto my fantasy team and he goes and lands on the inactive list every other week. Frustrating. But that doesn’t change the fact he, and his running mate DeAngelo Williams are a dangerous 1-2 punch. Add in Cam Newton and you have a 3 headed Hydra monster in the Panthers rushing attack. Thankfully the Seahawks have the 2nd best run defense in the NFL (allowing 62.8 yards per game) because every last fiber of its beef and brawn are going to be needed to bottle a very potent, albeit dormant, Carolina ground attack. Look for the very stout defensive front for the Seahawks to keep all 3 of them stifled in their efforts, and force Cam Newton to beat them with the pass while keeping him in the pocket. (See Key #1)
5) Questions and Answers
– Some would agree that this HAS to be Russell Wilson’s last audition for the role of Seahawks starting QB. There is no doubt this young man is talented as all get up, and his ceiling is atmospheric but there has to be a realization from the GM down that if it’s not his time to shine, it’s not his time to shine. The Seahawks have a playoff caliber defense and the league’s best rushing attack yet are 0-2 in division play, and are another road loss away from being sub-.500. Some project the blame to the wide receivers inability to get open or the offensive line’s inability to create a sustainable pocket, which could very well be contributing to what is now the league’s worst passing attack. The fact still remains that Wilson has at times shown his lack of downfield vision in locating the open receiver as well as a feel for the pocket, sometimes running INTO a sack rather than away from one. The question has been asked, is Russell Wilson ready to be a starting quarterback in this league? The answer should, and could be answered Sunday. Stay tuned.