The end of September is rapidly approaching, but the Seattle Seahawks have one more game left before the calendar flips to October. That contest is the seemingly annual matchup with the Carolina Panthers, who are not division rivals, but who certainly feel like division rivals given the frequency with which the two teams have faced off over the past decade.
As always, Field Gulls partnered up with Cat Scratch Reader to preview the matchup, with Walker Clement providing answers to the questions asked of him. Many of the answers are quite amusing, and indicate the Seahawks should be able to come away from this game with an easy victory. Of course, that is what fans thought about the game against the Panthers in 2022, so hopefully the team does not take Carolina for granted and the Hawks are able to keep pace with the NFC West leading San Francisco 49ers, who dismantled the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football.
1. The Seahawks run defense has been very good so far this season, while the pass defense and pass rush have been close to non-existent a lot of the time. Can the Panthers play in such a way as to take advantage of a secondary that is beat up and still learning to play together as a group?
I hope so. The 2023 Carolina Panthers have done absolutely nothing this season to show that they can produce in the passing game, let alone take advantage of another team’s weakness in that area. They rank dead last in passing yards per game and have looked worse than that.
Most of their failures can be linked back to playcalling and poor route running by the Panthers’ wide receiver corps. Bryce Young has missed a couple of throws, most notably deep ones, but that shouldn’t affect this game as Andy Dalton is expected to start at quarterback while Young rehabs an ankle injury from last week.
Unfortunately for Dalton, the coaching and receiver issues are unlikely to magically disappear this week.
2. The Panthers hired their GM, Scott Fitterer away from the Seahawks with high hopes of replicating a decade of success in Seattle. So far, that has obviously not been the case, so where does fan sentiment sit in terms of expectations not just for the remainder of 2023, but for 2024 and beyond as well? And will Fitterer even be around?
Fans are split on Fitterer. Many fans give him a pass for the last couple of years because the team was largely led by an embarrassing excuse for a leader who had near total control of the draft and roster. Many fans just have a bad taste in their mouth that began forming in late 2018 and are ready for the team to clean house.
The Panthers have not fired a general manager and a head coach at the same time since firing George Seifert in 2001. Even that is misleadingly recent as Seifert (Dom Capers before him) was the head coach who also took on GM duties because the Panthers did not have one. They fired BIll Polian in 1997 and replaced him with Marty Hurney in 2002.
This has led to leap-frog effect of failures that has left fans struggling to agree on who to blame.
Personally, I like Fitterer and I want to like new head coach Frank Reich, but I think they should both be gone at the end of next season if they can’t show significant progress. I could make an argument for this season.
3. The Panthers roster is chocked full of names of young players with upside potential that fans know, including Brian Burns, Bryce Young and others. But who are the unheralded players on the Carolina roster that Seahawks fans may not be familiar with who could have an impact on the outcome of the game this weekend?
We like to preach the gospel of Frankie Luvu over at Cat Scratch Reader. He’s a linebacker that plays, and excels, both inside and outside in the Panthers new-look 3-4 defense. Expect to hear his name early and often stuffing runs, sacking Geno Smith, and possibly even forcing a turn over. He’s a human highlight reel.
Besides him, Jeremy Chinn is due for a breakout game. He’s a rangy safety/linebacker hybrid who has a fun role in Ejiro Evero’s defense but hasn’t put his mark on a game through the first two weeks.
On offense, everything is pain and we don’t know if anybody is worth mentioning yet.
4. In 2022 the teams that were able to shut down the Seattle offense were those defenses that were able to take the Seahawks tight ends out of the game. So far in 2023 that has played out the same, with the Rams holding Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson and Noah Fant to a combined total of 25 yards in Week 1, while in Week 2 the trio combined for 132 yards. Do the Panthers have the defensive personnel at linebacker and safety to take the Seahawks tight ends out of the game, or will they be able to run wild in the Carolina secondary?
The answer would have been an unequivocal yes before the Panthers lost Shaq Thompson for the year to a broken tibia against the Saints. He, Luvu, and Chinn are all capable of covering tight ends effectively. The answer is probably still yes, but we don’t know exactly what the team is going to do to cover up the loss of their defensive signal caller.
Deion Jones and Kamu Grugier-Hill are both in line to get some reps in Thompson’s stead, but what they can do in the Panthers defense is yet to be seen.
5. The Seahawks are 6.5 point favorites and the over/under is 41.5, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Meanwhile the Seattle defense has surrendered 30 and 31 points in the first two weeks, with the Panthers putting a total of 27 points on the board between the first two games. Can Andy Dalton lead the Panthers offense in such a way as to attempt to imitate the kind of production Seattle has faced so far this season, or will the Seahawks defense benefit from facing an opponent whose offense is less dangerous than that faced in the first two weeks? What’s your prediction for the game, and should we bet the over or the under?
The under on a Carolina Panthers game has to be one of the historically safest bets in all of professional sports. We are firmly in prove-it territory when considering the team’s claims that they have an offense capable of producing points or even first downs.
That said, the Panthers have always done just about the dumbest possible thing. That isn’t to say all of their leadership or players have intentionally done dumb things, just that this franchise can’t stop tripping over its own feet. This week, the dumbest thing they could do would be to win with Dalton under center, queueing questions over whether Young was the correct choice in the draft.
It’s a challenge, to be sure, but I still don’t think the Panthers can pull off the win here. Let’s say Seattle 20, Carolina 17.