The Panthers will have to execute this Sunday to beat the Seahawks. Though the Panthers will be big underdogs the Seahawks are beatable even by this unmotivated Panther team. The key will the running game and of course, turnovers. I’m going to assume Matt Moore will start at QB though I’m sure if Vinny Testaverde can go he will. Moore has been less than impressive in his short relief stints. It’s time this kid settled down and made some heady plays.
Foxsports.com has its usual stat analysis here.
The Seahawks have a deciding edge in several key categories. The one most likely to kill the Panthers is the Seahawk passing offense against the Panthers passing defense. Though this looks like a strength-on-strength match-up QB Matt Hasselbeck is playing well and has all his weapons at full speed. If the Panthers can’t get pressure on him then expect the Seahawks and Mike Holmgren to mix in just enough running plays to keep the Panthers honest. In the end the Panthers must contain the plays down the middle of the field.
The Panthers passing game against the Seattle passing defense clearly favors the Seahawks. I bet even if the Panthers get behind they continue to run the ball. Throwing too much will only makes things worse.
The Panthers must get the ball in the hands of Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams. If those two are effective the Panther offense will click and keep them in the game.
The Sportsnetwork makes a few interesting points:
The Seahawks do have a history of falling short on the road in games they're expected to win, but Seattle doesn't figure to face much of challenge from a Carolina team that appears to have packed it in. The Seahawks have scored at least 24 points in seven consecutive games and if that trend continues, it will be quite a task for the offensively-challenged Panthers to reach that number. Carolina will have to rely on its defense in order to have a chance, but its struggles in rushing the passer could lead to another productive afternoon for Hasselbeck. And, if the Seahawks continue to force turnovers on defense, that will make for another long day for a home crowd that has endured its share of suffering this season.
I take issue with people who say the Panthers are not playing with fire. I see defensive players trying to get pumped and making plays in the 1st quarter of every game. It’s just that since week 6 the Panthers have let themselves get deflated at the first sign of trouble. The best the Panthers can do is keep it close for a half. The rest of the league has owned the Panthers in the 3rd quarter (except the 49ers) leading to a number of uninspired 4th quarters.
Don’t expect John Fox to game plan like he’s playing for next year. He will play his starters until it’s out of hand. He knows he’s on the hot seat and winning one in front of the home crowd against a quality opponent would go a long way to quieting the mob.
If your looking for false optimism in the Panthers locker room you’ll have to talk to FS Deke Cooper.
With adversity like this, that's when we've got to come together," safety Deke Cooper said. "We can't let a loss separate us. We've got three games left. Who knows what's going to happen in the playoff race? We've got to play every game like we're still in the playoffs."
It’s sad the only guy who hasn’t given up is the back-up free safety. This team is devoid of locker room leadership.
Panthers Keys to the Game
I’ll start with the offense:
• The Panthers must win the time of possession
• They must avoid turnovers
• They must rush for 140+ yards
• They must complete at 50% of their 3rd downs
• They must protect the middle of the field
• They must get pressure on Matt Hasselbeck
• They must hold Seattle to less than 50% 3rd down conversion
• They must force at least 2 turnovers
Quite a list I know. You would think any team could win without all of the unlikely keys I’ve listed but as pointed out above the Panthers aren’t playing 4 quarters of inspired ball right now.
One final key is to avoid getting behind early. Dare I say it, a TD on their first drive would inspire the defense. A lead going into the 4th quarter would give this team and their fans something to cheer about.