Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks
Sunday December 5, 2010 4:15 PM EST
Line: Seattle -5
The 5-6 Seattle Seahawks might be in first place in the NFC West, but they aren’t playing like a playoff caliber team. they have lost four of their last five game, including two huge losses at home. Seattle has been struggling mightily and against most teams in the NFL, they would probably be heavy underdogs. As it stands, they are facing the Carolina Panthers, who are the worst team in the NFL.
The 1-9 Panthers nearly came away with a victory last week against Cleveland. Of their nine losses this season, seven have come with a double digit margin. The Panthers are injured and lack personnel even when healthy to compete. They have questions all over their depth chart and it becomes unclear just how they will go about resurrecting their franchise.
Keys to the Game
Jimmy Clausen is improving. While he has only thrown one touchdown in his rookie season, Clausen looks more composed of late. It is unclear what the Panthers will do with the quarterback situation moving forward, but they are in no hurry to win. They need to give Clausen weapons and some sort of an offensive line to give him some stability before they make a final decision.
The Seahawks rush for less than 80 yards a game, ranking them dead last in the NFL. They acquired Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett has looked good at times, but unless the Seahawks can somehow get their running game going, there is no way they are going to be able to come away with an NFC West title.
The offensive line has been inconsistent due to injuries and a youth movement, but that is only part of the reason why the Seahawks have not been able to move the ball on the ground.
Mike Williams looks like he is set to make a return after a brief foot injury. Williams has back to back 100 yard games in his last two outings. He could easily earn comeback player of the year honors and he has been a key part of the Seahawks passing game this season. Williams has picked up the slack, as they did not fill the void at receiver with Deion Branch, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, or even Golden Tate.
Seattle finally looks like they may have found their legitimate number one receiver and Williams seems to be poised to have a solid career under Pete Carroll.
The Panthers do fairly well against the pass and struggle against the run. This makes for a favorable matchup for Carolina, as their strengths play to the strengths of their opposition. The Panthers obviously don’t have star linebacker Jon Beason, which has been detrimental to their defensive efforts.
Who covers on Sunday?
Earl Thomas vs. Jimmy Clausen
Earl Thomas is the second-leading tackler on the Seahawks and has five interceptions. If it weren’t for the remarkable year Ndamukong Suh is having in Detroit, there is a possibility that Thomas could be a viable candidate for defensive rookie of the year honors.
Teams are willing to throw at Thomas due to his inexperience. This is a growing trend, as we saw the same sort of production from Bills rookie safety Jairus Byrd in his rookie season.
Jimmy Clausen has to protect the football. Forcing the ball is going to lead to an interception and the Panthers don’t have the talent to come from behind. Playing at Qwest is already miserable for opposing quarterbacks. If Clausen has to come from behind he is likely to watch his mistakes pile up.
The Seahawks have one of the best fan bases in the entire league. The home field advantage they create is matched by few among the league. Even so, Seattle has made a recent habit of getting blown out. The Panthers match up well against the Seahawks and while the Seahawks may come away with a victory, it seems like it will be a hard-fought game.
Free NFL Pick: Carolina +5