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Carolina vs. Seattle Prediction: Banged-Up Seahawks Host the Panthers

Seahawks looking to maintain their playoff positioning while the Panthers hope to make a late push in the NFC South.

The home stretch of the 2022 NFL season cranks up this week for the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks as they meet on Sunday afternoon at Lumen Field in Seattle.

These two teams have a lot to play for. The Panthers (4-8) look to keep pace with Tampa Bay in the NFC South, down two games with five to go. Seattle (7-5) is looking to take care of business heading into a huge showdown with San Francisco on Dec. 15 in a tightly contested NFC West race.

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Carolina was off last week and comes into this game with plenty of confidence after a 23-10 win over the Denver Broncos two weeks ago. The defense did a nice job of neutralizing Russell Wilson as they sacked him three times and limited him to 142 passing yards. Running the football effectively was a difference-maker for the Panthers' offense; D'Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard combined to rush for 178 yards on 41 attempts. That allowed the Panthers to possess the football for over 37 minutes, which took its toll on the Broncos' defense in the second half.

Sam Darnold completed 11 of 19 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown. Darnold's performance wasn't flashy, but it got the job done for interim head coach Steve Wilks. In addition, Carolina put an end to the Baker Mayfield era by releasing him on Monday after an 0-5 record as their starting quarterback. Mayfield completed a career-low 57.8 percent of his passes and threw six touchdowns and six interceptions. The failed experiment with Mayfield is another great example of how risky relying on a relatively young quarterback is for teams — it's a total crapshoot. 

Geno Smith led his first game-winning touchdown drive for Seattle as he led the Seahawks to a dramatic 27-23 victory over the feisty Los Angeles Rams to snap a two-game losing streak. The game-winning play was an eight-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf with 36 seconds left to give the Seahawks the lead and cap off an entertaining battle with Jalen Ramsey. Smith completed 28 of 39 passes for 367 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. 

The Seahawks needed every one of those 367 yards, as the running back room took a beating physically in this game. Rookie Kenneth Walker III left the game with an ankle strain and had an eventful back-and-forth argument with Smith on the sidelines. DeeJay Dallas battled through an ankle injury and gutted out 37 rushing yards on 10 attempts. Tony Jones Jr. also had to pitch in with seven carries for 14 yards, as he was the last running back standing at one point in the game.

Carolina (4-8) at Seattle (7-5)

Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 11 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV: FOX
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Seahawks -5.5
Tickets: As low as $87 on SITickets.com*

Three Things to Watch

1. Can Carolina run the ball right at the Seahawks' defense?
One easy way for the Panthers' offensive staff to protect Darnold this week is to establish the running game right away, as Seattle ranks 31st in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 155.3 yards per game on the ground. So, look for Foreman and Hubbard to see plenty of touches early on Sunday. Success in the running game will have multiple benefits for the offense if they execute at a high level. The first benefit for Carolina of getting the running game going will be neutralizing what is expected to be a "rocking atmosphere" at Lumen Field on Sunday. Another benefit is slowing down the Seahawks' pass rush that needs to harass Darnold when he does throw the football. If they don't slow down the Seahawks' pass rush, Darnold risks throwing crucial interceptions to players like Tariq Woolen, who picked off his sixth pass of the season last week against the Rams and was lights out in general.

2. Can the Seattle offense slow down an aggressive Carolina defense?
With the health issues at running back for Seattle, it's a pretty safe bet that the Panthers are going to come after Smith with plenty of pressure. The offensive line must account for defensive end Brian Burns, who has 10 sacks and a forced fumble this season. Rookie left tackle Charles Cross will be tested all afternoon long, as playing against someone like Burns is great preparation for Round 2 against San Francisco's Nick Bosa next Thursday night. Expect a mix of quick passes from the pocket by Smith to Tyler Lockett and Metcalf, along with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron getting him out of the pocket and having him make throws on the run as well.

3. Will the Seahawks' defense put together a full 60 minutes?
It's been a wild ride in 2022 for the 12s as they watch this defense have its ups and downs. When they are not playing sound football, they have been a problem for several teams. However, the inconsistency against mid-level teams and below, like the NFC South teams they have already played, has reared its ugly head way too often, and that's why they are 7-5. This week provides a golden opportunity for the defense to rectify their inconsistency by setting a physical tone against a Carolina offense that ranks 30th in the NFL in total offense averaging 291.3 yards per game. The game plan this week should be to pressure Darnold from all angles and avoid allowing chunk plays to the Panthers' skill guys to shorten their drives. If Seattle forces Carolina to consistently drive 75 to 80 yards, it will be in position to win the game.

Final Analysis

Something must give this week, as Carolina is 0-5 away from Bank of America Stadium while the Seahawks are 0-3 against the NFC South, which has been the worst division in the NFL this season. This game will come down to whichever quarterback can finish drives with touchdowns and not turn the football over. Geno Smith has a big edge over Sam Darnold in this matchup. Smith leads in the NFL in the following categories: games with multiple TD passes (10), games with a 100-plus passer rating (9), and games with a 70-plus percent completion rate (8). That is why the Seahawks will pick up win No. 8 amidst their running back health issues and keep pace with Sam Francisco in the NFC West for another week.

Prediction: Seahawks 27, Panthers 17

– Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Contributor Network.

*Price as of publication.