By Jim Moore
If you listen to all of the talk in town, Russell Wilson needs to have a breakout performance to save his job this week.
The Wilson detractors think he’s too conservative and doesn’t make it happen often enough in the passing game, particularly on third down. But Wilson is operating under Pete Carroll’s restricted guidelines and hasn’t been allowed to air it out as much as he’d no doubt like to.
I’m guessing that starts to change this week. Based on an over-under of 43.5, the Seahawks figure to be in a higher-scoring game against the Panthers. To this point, every Seahawks game has gone under.
The Panthers have the league’s 22nd-ranked passing defense thanks largely to a secondary that has been susceptible to big plays. (AP photo)
Carolina, with quarterback Cam Newton, figures to move the ball against the Seahawks’ defense, sturdy as it is. As a result, Carroll will have to give Wilson more freedom.
That’s what I’m thinking anyway, and of course I could be way off base. But when you look at Carolina’s pass defense, which is 22nd in the league, Wilson should have some downfield opportunities.
After Carolina was torched by Matt Ryan and the Falcons in a late comeback last week, Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer wrote that the Panthers were four solid starters from having a good secondary. Ouch.
But if true – and he watches them every week – it provides a good spot for Wilson to duplicate what he did against Kansas City when he won the job from Matt Flynn in the preseason.
Carolina allows an average of 259 passing yards, and that’s nearly twice the average that Wilson has thrown for thus far. I keep waiting for play-action stuff to open up for Wilson, and it should happen over and over again on Sunday.
More encouraging numbers: the Panthers are 26th in the league in rushing defense, allowing 134.8 yards a game. And now they’re facing the NFL’s top rusher in Marshawn Lynch, who could go for 150 against Carolina.
But let’s say he just goes for 100, the Panthers have to focus on stopping him first, giving Wilson the chance to shine against that sad secondary of theirs.
I haven’t properly analyzed this game from the Carolina point of view. But I’m not writing a post for a Charlotte website. If I were, I’d point out that the Seahawks are going to have a tough time stopping Newton, who’s a threat to run and pass, and you’re never quite sure what he’s going to do.
I’d also point out that the Panthers, at 1-3, need this game worse than the 2-2 Seahawks. And the Panthers are at home, another advantage in their favor.
Defensively, Carolina will bother Wilson with Charles Johnson, a relentless menace who had 3.5 of the Panthers’ seven sacks against Atlanta last week.
Carolina’s a 3-point favorite, which surprised me because I thought it would be a pick-’em game.
I’m 3-1 in Seahawks’ predictions so far, missing only the Green Bay game, which means I’m a good referee away from being 4-0.
This week I’m taking Seattle and the points. Wilson will throw for 250 yards and two touchdowns while Lynch runs for 125 yards and two touchdowns. The defense will bottle up Newton often enough to allow the Hawks to prevail.
My prediction: Seahawks 34, Panthers 24