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Seahawks vs Panthers Game Preview: Highlighting 4 key matchups for Week 14 showdown

Seattle will need to key in on stopping Brian Burns.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks are coming off of their first win in nearly a month after a late game comeback orchestrated by Geno Smith against the Los Angeles Rams. Geno found DK Metcalf in the end zone with 36 seconds left to give Seattle a valuable 27-23 win. Whilst it was a much-needed win, for the third game in a row it was another discouraging showing.

Seattle never held a two-possession lead and trailed on three different occasions against one of the worst teams in the league. Geno Smith and co. take on the 4-8 Carolina Panthers in what is a must win game with the Washington Commanders just a half game behind them for the seventh seed in the NFC. DraftKings Sportsbook currently has this as a close game with the Seahawks being listed as just a 3.5-point favorite at the moment. This is a Panthers team that has more talent than their record indicates, with some game changing players on their roster.

Jaycee Horn/C.J. Henderson vs DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett

The Panthers cornerback room has been a tail of opposites this season. They hit a home run on their first-round pick in 2021 in South Carolina Gamecock, Jaycee Horn who is quickly ascending up cornerback lists. However, they whiffed on a trade for 2020 first round pick C.J. Henderson who has been a liability in coverage throughout his career. The former Florida Gator has allowed a passer rating of 110.2 or higher in each of his three seasons as well as a completion percentage of 73% or worse the past two seasons. Horn, who is going to be the main focus of this section, has been a complete 180 from Henderson. The 8th overall pick in 2021 is one of the more complete corners in the league, leading to a passer rating of 48.3 when targeted this season.

The first tweet shown is from his time in college. He is lined up over the second receiver in the 3-receiver side of the formation. He stays patient off of the snap, shoots the jam with his inside hand and gets his head around to locate the football allowing him to make a play on the ball rather than pick up a penalty. The second play is nothing overly special, but it is still a good play, especially for a rookie at the time. Horn keeps his eyes on the quarterback in zone coverage, doesn’t gain too much depth, reads the rollout quickly and breaks up to contest it at the catch point.

The edge - Metcalf and Lockett

Horn is one of the better young defenders in the league and I think he is going to be able to prevent Metcalf from having his third consecutive 90+ receiving yard day. However, C.J. Henderson is one of the worst corners in the NFL meaning a veteran receiver like Lockett is going to have a significant edge on him. As a result, Seattle’s wide receiver duo has the edge here.

Derrick Brown vs the Seahawks IOL

Derrick Brown has not broken out in the way many expected him to when he was drafted with the 7th overall pick out of the University of Auburn in 2020. Now that is not to say he has been a bust or anything close to that as he has 6 career sacks, 21 tackles for loss and 125 combined tackles in his 44 career games. Brown has the talent to cause the Seahawks interior offensive line problems on Sunday and the two videos above show that. In the first tweet Brown shows off his technique and upper body strength, which allows him to toss the offensive lineman aside with ease and make the tackle right at the line of scrimmage. The second play comes against right guard Chris Lindstrom, who has a strong chance at being an All Pro this season. Brown beats him on this play with little resistance getting home for the easy pressure.

The edge - Derrick Brown

Like Burns who will be discussed below, Brown has a multitude of moves that he can attack the Seahawks offensive line with. The interior of the line is certainly weaker than the tackles, so I think they are going to struggle with Brown in this one, especially if they focus on stopping Burns over him.

Brian Burns vs Charles Cross and Abe Lucas

Brian Burns is one of the most underrated edge rushers in the NFL. Since entering the league, he is tied for 9th in sacks with 35.5. He is also tied for 13th this season with 17 QB hits. The first tweet is really impressive play that goes in the box score as just a QB hit and a knockdown, but it was certainly good enough to warrant a sack. He explodes off of the snap, gets the left tackle off balance and prevents him from anchoring with a long arm move striking him in the chest.

The second video shows multiple plays but for this one we are just going to focus on the first one. He once again does a great job of converting speed into power driving Evan Neal, the right tackle, right into the lap of Daniel Jones. At the apex of his move he throws Neal’s arms aside, disengages and gets the sack.

It will be interesting to see how Seattle approaches containing Burns on Sunday. They could either leave Lucas and Cross on islands against him or chip him with tight ends and running backs no matter which side, he lines up on. Something else to watch with Burns is how often he is going to be used on stunts to attack what is a weaker interior offensive line.

The edge - Brian Burns

Despite Lucas and Cross impressing throughout the season I think Burns is going to be able to throw a lot at them which is going to cause them problems. There are not many edges who have as deep of a toolbox as Burns which I believe is going to allow him to win with some consistency on Sunday.

Panthers running game vs the Seahawks front 7

The Panthers' running game has been up and down over their last four games. Against the Broncos and Falcons, they rushed for a combined 417 yards on 93 attempts. Against the Bengals and Ravens, they rushed for 100 yards on 35 attempts. This Panthers offense goes as the running game goes so it is imperative that the Seahawks fix what has been a leaky run defense. The Panthers have a thunder and lightning duo in D’onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard, both of whom will be covered in this section. The first video highlights Foreman, who brings more of the thump and in between the tackles running to the offense. Foreman is taking a handoff on an outside zone play intended for what looks like the left C gap. He cuts inside when the lineman gets blown back, runs through a one arm tackle and bounces off another to get into the end zone.

On the second play, which showcases what Hubbard brings to the table, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy takes the quick pitch, shoots the gap between his pulling lineman, stiff arms a defender and gets the touchdown. Hubbard has the power to be used between the tackles, although when he comes in it is more likely that we will see him used on runs to the C gap and wider.

The edge - Panthers running game

The Seahawks' run defense has been poor over the past few weeks. Despite holding Cam Akers to 3.5 yards a carry they still allowed 171 rushing yards overall, allowed Josh Jacobs to run for over 200 yards, and Rachaad White to exceed 100 yards. As a result of their overall shakiness stopping the run and the Panthers having some extremely impressive games running the ball over their last few games, Carolina’s running game gets the edge.

Score prediction

Seahawks 20 - Panthers 17

Last week recap

Jalen Ramsey vs DK Metcalf

Predicted edge - Ramsey - Actual edge - Metcalf

Metcalf had another massive game for the Seahawks on Sunday, catching all 8 of his targets for 127 yards, as well as the winning touchdown on Ramsey. Ramsey has taken a step back this season and it showed in this one with Metcalf certainly having the better game of the two giving him the edge.

Rams front 7 vs the Seattle running game

Predicted edge - Rams front 7 - Actual edge - Rams front 7

The Seahawks' running game was largely non-existent in this one. If you were to remove Kenneth Walker lll’s 30 yard run from early in the first quarter, Seahawks running backs averaged only 2.85 yards a carry on 20 attempts. With such a poor showing from the Seahawks running game the Rams front 7 gets the obvious edge here.

Seahawks defensive line vs the Rams offensive line

Predicted edge - Seattle defensive line - Actual edge - Seattle defensive line

The Seahawks were able to pressure Wolford throughout Sunday’s game, picking up four sacks and nine quarterback hits. The Rams' running game was able to pick up 5.2 yards per carry and 171 overall, although 68 of those came from wide receivers Tutu Atwell and Brandon Powell. As a result of Seattle limiting Cam Akers to 3.5 yards a carry and sacking Wolford four times, they pick up the edge.

Seahawks secondary vs Bryce Perkins

Predicted edge - secondary - Actual edge - secondary

Whilst Bryce Perkins did not play in this one the same that applied to Perkins applies to the Rams starting quarterback John Wolford, who threw two interceptions and only picked up 178 yards through the air. His overall poor performance in this one gives the Seahawks secondary the clear edge.

Predicted score

Seahawks 24 - Rams 10

Somewhat close to the Seahawks score but not close to the Rams’.

(All advanced stats cited provided by Pro Football Reference)