The Carolina Panthers offense has struggled out of the gate, to put it mildly. They’ve scored two touchdowns in two games, and one of those came late against the New Orleans Saints with the Saints playing everyone’s favorite prevent defense. They’re averaging just 4.1 yards per play, better than only the Cincinnati Bengals. To make matters worse, quarterback Bryce young has sat out practice this week while he deals with an ankle injury he sustained during Monday Night’s game against the Saints. If he can’t go, Andy Dalton will get the start with new practice squad signee Jake Luton in reserve duty.
On the bright side, this week’s opponent isn’t as strong as the first two. The Flacons and Saints have both profiled as above average defenses through two weeks, though that could partially be attributed to having the benefit of playing the Panthers. However, the Seahawks have been porous, especially through the air. They gave up at least 30 points in each of their first two games, and both opposing quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards on at least 8.8 yards per attempt. That brings us to the keys for the game.
- Attack Seattle through the air, regardless of who gets the start at quarterback. Both the Rams and the Lions had success attacking the Seahawks back seven in the middle of the field. That’s a good sign for the Panthers, as their most proven pass catchers thrive in that area. Hayden Hurst and Adam Thielen should have room to operate in the short areas of the field, which will help Young or Dalton get their feet under them. Both should have big games, and they’ll be relied on to keep the offense moving since yards probably won’t be as easy to come by on the ground.
- Don’t be stubborn with the run game. The Panthers have been pretty bad about this so far. On first and second downs in the first and third quarters (so unaffected by two-minute drills), the Panthers have run the ball 59% of the time. That’s the third highest rate in the league despite the Panthers only averaging 4.0 yards per carry in those situation. There’s probably some idea about helping the rookie quarterback out, but it’s backfiring given how often the Panthers are falling behind the chains due to unsuccessful runs. The Seahawks have been stout against the run through two games, so the Panthers can’t expect to bang their head against the wall and find success.
- Put the ball in the end zone when you get in close. The Panthers have scored touchdowns on just two of their five red zone trips this season. The Seahawks have allowed opponents to score on all five of their red zone trips. Something’s gotta give. This is a chance for the Panthers to cure their red zone woes against a unit that’s struggling. Hopefully Bryce Young is the one to do it, but any success is needed right now.
The Panthers offense has a chance for a bit of a get-right game on Sunday. The Seahawks have talent on the outside, but there are weaknesses that can be exploited. The Panthers have players that can take advantage of those weaknesses. They may not get their first win on Sunday, but they should at least be able to put some points on the board.