Cam Newton vs. Legion of Boom
Outside of the NFC South, Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton has not faced another team more than the Seattle Seahawks. Newton has faced the Seahawks three times in his career, each of the past three years, and Saturday’s matchup will be number four.
Unfortunately, Newton has not had great success against the Seahawks, particularly the Legion of Boom. He has completed only 54 percent of his passes, averaging 145.6 yards per game and has only thrown one touchdown in these three games. The Seahawks have even been able to keep him in check on the ground, allowing a total of 104 rushing yards in these games.
The most important stat of all though is the fact that Newton has yet to beat Seattle, even though all three games have been at home. He will now have to find a way to beat the Seahawks in Seattle, which is a daunting task.
Panthers’ Offensive Tackles vs. Seahawks’ Pass Rush
If Cam Newton hopes to have a good game throwing the ball, he is going to need time in the pocket. The Panthers quarterback is going to need big games from his offensive tackles to make this happen.
Left tackle Byron Bell has been the starter for the majority of the season, except for a few games missed due to injuries. He really struggled to start the year but has gotten better towards the end of the season. The right tackle position meanwhile has gotten significantly better since Mike Remmers became the starter. He replaced injured right tackle Nate Chandler during the Week 12 bye week.
The reason the offensive tackles will be so important is the Seahawks have a number of players on their defense who can get after the quarterback. The trio of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin are tough to block and make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
In the first matchup between these two teams, the Seahawks sacked Newton three times, two of them by Irvin. The question entering Saturday is just how improved is this group from the first time these two faced each other in Week 8?
Panthers’ Front Seven vs. Marshawn Lynch
The Seattle Seahawks offense relies heavily on the run game and their featured running back Marshawn Lynch. During the regular season, the Seahawks led the league in rushing yards (2762), rushing touchdowns (20) and finished second in rushing attempts (525). Lynch was a big part of the success and finished fourth in the NFL in rushing yards (1306) and first in rushing touchdowns (13).
If the Panthers hope to win this game, they are going to have to find a way to slow this running attack down. They have two of the best linebackers in the game that should make it difficult on Seattle in middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and outside linebacker Thomas Davis. Both players are excellent tacklers and are able to close quickly on the ball carrier.
The concern for the Panthers though lies in the interior of the defensive line with the news of Star Lotulelei being out for this game. The second-year defensive tackle started to play well the past two weeks but suffered a fractured foot in Tuesday’s practice. The Panthers will look to Colin Cole and Dwan Edwards to fill the void left by Lotulelei’s absence.