After losing a nail-biter against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers aim to get back into the race for the NFC South against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
The Panthers had troubles in the secondary against the Falcons, allowing a 59-yard pass in the final minute that led to them losing the game.
The Seahawks have a much-improved defense, but the passing game has been struggling behind rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
Here's a look at the matchup on Sunday.
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
When: Sunday, Oct. 7 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Line: Panthers -3, Over/Under 43.5, via Bovada
What's At Stake?
After a 6-10 campaign last season, the Panthers (1-3) are trying to get back in the win column after losing a 30-28 squeaker against the Atlanta Falcons last week. They currently trail the 4-0 Falcons in the NFC South and haven't won the division since 2008.
The rising Seahawks, on the other hand, are battling to capture what has become a very competitive NFC West division, complete with the San Francisco 49ers and the up-and-coming Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams.
They've gone 2-2 this season and they're vying for their first division title since 2010.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
DT Jaye Howard - Foot - Questionable
G John Moffitt - Knee - Questionable
DE Greg Scruggs - Wrist - Questionable
DB Byron Maxwell - Hamstring - Questionable
DE Antwan Applewhite - Knee - Questionable
G Mike Pollak - Shoulder - Questionable
WR David Gettis - Hamstring - OUT indefinitely
CB Brandon Hogan - Knee - IR
What They're Saying
Pete Carroll's decision to start rookie quarterback Russell Wilson over offseason acquisition Matt Flynn this season is beginning to cause some rumblings in Seattle.
Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley called the Seahawks' offensive game plan "as conservative as a Tea Party convention" on Tuesday.
Seattle is last in the NFL in pass attempts this season (100) as the team attempts to ease Wilson into the league. They have run the ball 137 times, tied for second in the league.
There's nothing wrong with this, per se, especially given the Seahawks' improved defense and the fact that they have star running back Marshawn Lynch. On the other hand, Wilson isn't doing much with his opportunities, averaging 5.9 yards per attempt with four touchdowns to four interceptions.
Hence, the awakened quarterback controversy between the rookie and Flynn.
As for the Panthers, their defense has been burned by the media and fans alike after allowing the Falcons to drive down the field for the game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.
That included a 59-yard pass to receiver Roddy White which was allowed by safety Haruki Nakamura.
Nakamura could reportedly lose his starting job this week with backup Sherrod Martin receiving more practice reps, according to the Charlotte Observer. Beyond the game-losing play he allowed, he also was broken down on three touchdowns by the Falcons in Week 4.
Seahawks Player to Watch: Marshawn Lynch, RB
Russell Wilson obviously needs to improve, but the Seahawks have a shot of beating the Panthers using their run-heavy philosophy.
Carolina is allowing 4.9 yards per carry this season (29th in the NFL) and allowed Falcons veteran Michael Turner to rush for 103 yards on just 13 carries last week.
Lynch has rushed for 423 yards this season (4.6 yards per carry) and two touchdowns and racked up 118 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Rams last week.
Panthers Player to Watch: Cam Newton, QB
Cam Newton has had a pretty wacky first four games of the season.
He played poorly against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants, but played well against the New Orleans Saints and Falcons.
Last week, Newton went 15-of-24 for 215 yards (8.96 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns. More importantly, he didn't throw a pick. When Newton starts coughing the ball up, that's when he gets into trouble.
Seattle has allowed just 6.2 yards per pass attempt this season (fourth in the NFL) and three passing touchdowns (tied for third). This pass defense is legit.
Key Matchup: Seahawks Passing Attack vs. Panthers Pass Defense
Carolina will score its fair share of points in this game, regardless of Seattle's defense. The Panthers scored 28 points against a much-improved Falcons defense last week.
In that sense, the Seahawks are going to need more than their running game to pull this one out.
That responsibility goes to Seattle's passing attack. Wilson has a shot of succeeding through the air against a defense that has allowed 7.5 yards per pass attempt (20th in the NFL) and six passing touchdowns this season.
Prediction: Carolina 24, Seattle 21
The fact that the Panthers racked up 28 points against the Falcons tells you that this team still has a mighty explosive offense. I expect the Seahawks will have to score more than they are accustomed to in this game.
I still don't think Wilson is where he needs to be and I think that will rear its ugly head against Carolina. It's not that I think Wilson will have a bad game; it's that I don't think he'll do enough to catch up to the Panthers' offense.