Sunday's X Factors

The Carolina Panthers are a bad team, but as they showed last week, they still have plenty of fight left. This week, they take that fight with them to Seattle. Michael Stolp profiles the players who will have to step and and help K.O. the Seahawks.

DE Charles Johnson

If misery loves company, the Panthers and Seahawks will enjoy seeing each other this week. The Seahawks are bad -- not Panthers bad -- but bad. Their only solace is they get to play in the NFC West and are still tied for first place.

Pete Carroll's team will field the worst rushing offense in the league, something that may bode well for Johnson. If the Panthers defense can shut down the run game early on, Matt Hasselbeck may be forced to drop back and throw a lot. Johnson, the Panthers' leading sacker with 6.5, would get to tee off on the 35-year-old quarterback.

WR Brandon LaFell

Not only is the Seahawks' offense bad, they also have the league's third-worst defense. In each of their last two home games, Seattle has given up at least 40 points.

There will be opportunities for LaFell to make plays that can swing the tide in the Panthers' favor. LaFell made a tremendous catch that put the Panthers in field-goal range near the end of last week's game. We all know how that turned out, but it was the type of catch that can give a young player the confidence boost he needs to progress to the next level.

Everyone on the Kickoff and Punt Teams

Leon Washington is dangerous. He's the type of weapon that can change the momentum of a game in about 11 seconds. Granted, the Panthers are only guaranteed to kick off once, but they will surely punt at least a handful of times.

Washington returns both kickoffs and punts. It's in the Panthers' best interests to make sure he is tackled quickly before he gets into the open field. Should they manage to score a few times, the Panthers should consider kicking the ball out of bounds and letting the Seahawks start at their own 40-yard line. Right now, Washington returning kicks is more of a threat to score than the Seattle offense.

Michael Stolp is a graduate of Wilkes University with a degree in Communications. He grew up in Piscataway, N.J., and recently relocated to Charlotte, NC. To follow his personal blog, click here.

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