Jourdan Rodrigue from the Charlotte Observer provides a closer look at Seattle's Week 13 opponent:
1. What has been the biggest reason the Panthers have taken a step back after reaching the Super Bowl last year?
Rodrigue: I think "wrong place, wrong time" injuries have really hurt the Panthers this year. When they were going against pass-heavy teams, their two rookie corners were hurt and of course there was no viable option behind them. When they were going against big, physical defensive fronts most of their offensive line hasn't been healthy. They also haven't been able to win the type of close games they pulled out last year, and whether that is bad luck or a lack of sustained production from quarter to quarter is up for a little debate. They have had seven games decided by three points or less, and have lost five of those games.
2. How big of a concern are the injuries to their offensive line against Seattle's defensive front?
Rodrigue: Ron Rivera himself described the health of the line as a "position catastrophe." Not only is Michael Oher still in the concussion protocol, they have a right guard playing right tackle after the guy they moved to fill the spot got hurt after they moved the original starter to the left tackle spot to replace Oher. They are also on their third-string center. Are you keeping up? In fact, they only have one guy in the spot he started the season.
3. Overall, how has this season worked out for the Panthers secondary, a unit with two rookie CBs on the outside?
Rodrigue: The two rookie corners, Daryl Worley and James Bradberry, are finally healthy after both suffering a couple of nagging injuries earlier this year. I think there are some growing pains to work through, but they are athletic and, more importantly, they soak up each lesson each game provides them and have clearly improved from week-to-week. Carolina has also gotten a little bit of a spark in their nickel package from Leonard Johnson, who is back to better health as well.
4. If the Panthers are minus linebacker Luke Kuechly, what kind of production are they expecting from A.J. Klein?
Rodrigue:It is unlikely Luke Kuechly is back for this game, so backup A.J. Klein has stepped up. He got burned a few times last week against the Raiders, but on one big play in particular he should not have been isolated in coverage against the wideout. I think we will see a better game from him against Seattle, and I think we see more snap counts for buffalo nickel Shaq Thompson as well, who is better in coverage than Klein.
5. And lastly, if Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is matched up against Kelvin Benjamin, can we expect Cam Newton to still take his chances and throw his way?
Rodrigue:That's something I'd like to see, based on size, strength and personality. Cam has been struggling a little with his accuracy of late but a lot of that comes from having to get the ball out quick with a large human being in his face, based on the struggles on the line. If he does go after Sherman a bit, I'm really looking forward to watching that chess match.
Take a look at the Carolina Panthers players you can expect to see when the Seattle Seahawks take the field in Week 13 on Sunday Night Football at CenturyLink Field.