SERIES HISTORY: 10th regular-season meeting. Seahawks lead series, 6-3. Seattle has won two of three playoff meetings as well. This will be the ninth meeting, including seventh in the regular season, between the teams since 2010. The Seahawks have won the past three regular-season games in Charlotte and five of the past six overall.
KEYS TO THE GAME: After three consecutive weeks facing explosive quarterbacks Philip Rivers, Jared Goff and Aaron Rodgers, the Seahawks get to play one of the best dual-threat signal-callers in NFL history, Carolina's Cam Newton. The Seahawks beat only one of those three previous quarterbacks, Green Bay's Rodgers, thanks to a dominating pass rush. But over-aggressive defenses often pay a price against the elusive, hard-running Newton. Under offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Newton is playing better than ever, which is a significant comment.
Last week, Newton was bothered by a bad ankle and ran only twice for two yards, but he passed for 357 yards and three touchdowns. His passer rating has been above 100 in each of the last five games as he balances running that includes Christian McCaffrey and chunk plays to wide receivers DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel.
On the flip side, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson no longer carries the offense with his running ability as the Seahawks have their best running game since Beast Mode - now rated No. 1 in the league. Carolina's once great defense has slipped a notch overall but ageless defensive end Julius Peppers still makes big plays (7.5 sacks) and linebacker Luke Kuechly is a sideline-to-sideline joy-killer.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--OUT: LB K.J. Wright (knee)
--QUESTIONABLE: WR Doug Baldwin (groin)
--DOUBTFUL: WR Devin Funchess (back)
--QUESTIONABLE: WR Torrey Smith (knee)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Panthers CB James Bradberry vs. Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin. Bradberry has come under increased scrutiny and much of it is related to enhanced responsibilities. He's assigned to coverage of the opposing team's top receiver, so he's bound to be exposed at times. Baldwin has been able to take advantage of opposing cornerbacks throughout his career. Since 2015, Baldwin's 30 touchdown catches rank fifth in the NFL.
--Panthers OL vs. Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner. The Panthers have done a good job of creating running lanes and the task could be heightened with Wagner willing to fill some of those holes. The line has held together well during periods of dealing with injuries, but there have been consistency concerns. Wagner has All-Pro credentials and he'll want to show he's on par with Carolina LBs Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Panthers LB Shaq Thompson. He has continued to give the Panthers a boost in the middle of the defense and he often raises his level of play to those around him. The Panthers have counted on him starting to peak this season and he has followed through. This figures to be an important game for him because he played in college in Seattle for the University of Washington.
FAST FACTS: SEAHAWKS QB RUSSELL WILSON passed for 225 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 110.3 rating last week. Aims for 3rd in row with 2+ TD passes & 110+ rating. In 7 career meetings (incl. postseason), is 5-2 with 1,892 pass yards (270.3 per game) & 11 TDs vs. 6 INTs for 98.9 rating. Has 26 TD passes in 4th Q since 2017, most in NFL over span. ... SEAHAWKS lead NFL averaging 154.3 rush yards per game in 2018. ... RB CHRIS CARSON had 83 rush yards & TD in Week 11. Has rush TD in 2 of his past 3. ... RB MIKE DAVIS has 237 scrimmage yards (79 per game) & TD catch in his past 3. ... Rookie RB RASHAAD PENNY has 178 scrimmage yards (89 per game) & rush TD in his past 2 on road. ... WR TYLER LOCKETT led team with 71 rec. yards in Week 11. Had career-long 75-yard rush TD, his only career TD run, in last meeting. ... WR DOUG BALDWIN had TD catch last week. ... TE NICK VANNETT has TD in 2 of his past 3. ... DE FRANK CLARK had 2 sacks last week. In his past 5, has 7 sacks, 2 FFs & FR. Has 7 sacks since Week 6, 2nd-most in NFC. ... LB BOBBY WAGNER since 2014, leads NFL with 592 tackles. ... Rookies DE RASHEEM GREEN (1) & DE JACOB MARTIN (1) each had 1st career sack in Week 11. ... PANTHERS QB CAM NEWTON passed for 357 yards with 3 TDs vs. 1 INT for 114.4 rating last week. Has 2+ TD passes in 9 consecutive games, most in franchise history. Aims for his 6th in row with 2+ TD passes & 100+ rating. ... RB CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY had 110 scrimmage yards (57 rec., 53 rush) last week. Aims for his 4th in row with 100+ scrimmage yards. ... TE GREG OLSEN had TD catch last week. Has 16 catches for 238 yards (79.3 per game) & 2 TDs in his past 3 vs. Sea. (incl. postseason). ... Rookie WR D.J. MOORE had 7 receptions for 157 yards & TD in Week 11. His 157 rec. yards are most by rookie in single game in franchise history. ... DE MARIO ADDISON has 7.5 sacks & 3 FFs in his past 8 at home. ... DE JULIUS PEPPERS had sack in Week 11. ... CB DONTE JACKSON leads all NFL rookies with 4 INTs & ties for 3rd with 7 PD.
PREDICTION: These are two aggressive, talented teams and if one of them gets behind, things might snowball. Home-field advantage may be the difference.
OUR PICK: Panthers, 34-28