When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m. PDT, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Records: Seahawks 2-2; Panthers 1-3
TV: Fox (KCPQ/13), with Chris Myers, Tim Ryan and Kristina Pink
Radio: 710 ESPN and 97.3 FM, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller
Rest of the West: Bills at 49ers (3-1); Rams (3-2) defeated the Cardinals (4-1) on Thursday night
Seahawks’ No. 2-ranked defense vs. Panthers QB Cam Newton: Containing No. 1 is Priority One for the Seahawks, for obvious and multiple reasons. Newton can beat you with his arm and his legs, and do each in a flash. The Panthers have dipped into the college football playbook to come up with a read-option wrinkle that plays to Newton’s prowess at running the ball. And as Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said, “It creates issues. It’s just so unique. And then how much time do you spend on it? If it is 30 percent of their package, we might have to spend 70 percent of our time dealing with it to make sure we’re on it.” Then, preparing for it and actually containing the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton will take more than one defender on each and every play. Asked how to attack Newton, Bradley laughed and said, “All 11.”
One to watch
The Seahawks on third downs: The most pivotal down in the game has been a major focus this week, because the defense is allowing opponents to convert 43 percent (22 of 51) and the offense is converting only 28 percent (14 of 50). As coach Pete Carroll said, “We can’t play like that.” And it’s also extremely difficult to win with a disparity like that.
Fun to watch
Seahawks FB Michael Robinson vs. Panthers MLB Jon Beason: Ray Lewis. Patrick Willis (twice). Brian Urlacher. London Fletcher. Robinson spent much of last season pushing some of the best middle linebacker in the game out of Marshawn Lynch’s way with enough crushing lead blocks to earn himself a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. Next up is Beason, the Panthers’ leading tackler and a three-time Pro Bowl selection. Beason’s speed allows him to play sideline to sideline, while his strength and tenacity make him “very explosive at the point of attack,” as Robinson put it. As of Friday afternoon, Beason is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game with a knee injury and he did not practice all week. If Beason does not go, expect rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly or Jason Phillips to replace Beason in the middle of the Panthers defense.
One tough task
Panthers’ defense vs. Lynch: The NFL’s leading rusher is on a roll. Lynch has run for 85, 122, 98 and 118 yards in the first four games to compile his 423 yards this season, and he’s also the league’s most-productive runner since Week 9 last season with 1,364 yards during the 13-game span. He has at least 85 rushing yards in 12 of those 13 games. In the Seahawks’ 2010 game against the Panthers in Seattle, Lynch scored three touchdowns in a 31-14 victory that was Seattle’s only win in a six-game stretch. The Panthers, meanwhile, are allowing averages of 134.8 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. They’ve already yielded 100-yard rushing performances to the Falcons’ Michael Turner (103, on only 13 carries), Saints’ Pierre Thomas (110, on only nine carries) and Giants’ Andre Brown (113).
The Seahawks have played in Charlotte only twice and they lost both games – 26-3 in 2000 and 13-10 in 2007. … Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams is averaging 4.0 yards on 42 carries this season, but his career average of 5.0 yards on 1,038 carries ranks third in league history for a running back behind Jim Brown (5.2) and Mercury Morris (5.1). … The Seahawks’ Leon Washington ranks second in the league with a 37.7-yard average returning kickoffs and had a 69-yarder against the Rams last week. … Seahawks punter Jon Ryan is second in the NFL in net average (44.2). … In his past seven home games, Panthers’ wide receiver Steve Smith has four 100-yard efforts. … Panther defensive end Charles Johnson had a career-high 3.5 sacks last week, giving him 20.5 in his past 26 games. … Linebacker K.J. Wright leads the Seahawks with 30 tackles.