NFL Preview - Seattle (3-3) at Carolina (3-3-1) (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Seattle Seahawks will try to avoid their longest losing streak in nearly three years on Sunday as they head out east to visit the Carolina Panthers and Bank of America Stadium.
The Seahawks began defense of their Super Bowl championship by winning three of their first four games, coming out of a Week 4 bye with a triumph over the Washington Redskins.
Pete Carroll's club has hit a bit of a rut over the last two weekends, getting bested at home by the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 12 prior to a 28-26 setback to the hosting St. Louis Rams. That gave Seattle its first losing streak since late October of 2012.
In the first of back-to-back on the road, Seattle saw rival St. Louis return a punt for a touchdown and convert a gutsy fake punt attempt in its own end late in the game to seal the outcome.
The loss spoiled an outstanding effort from Russell Wilson, who threw for 313 yards with two touchdowns and also rushed for a game-high 106 yards and a score. In the process, Wilson became the first player in NFL history with 300- plus passing yards and 100-plus rushing yards in a single game.
"In terms of the milestone, it doesn't mean anything unless you win," Wilson said. "I'm not about stats. The only thing I really care about is winning."
The second loss came days after the Seahawks made a surprise move in trading wide receiver Percy Harvin to the New York Jets for a conditional draft pick. Doug Baldwin led the way in his absence, recoding game highs of seven catches for 123 yards while getting targeted 11 times and catching a TD pass.
"We felt that it was the best thing for our club and it'll help us down the road," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said of the trade.
Still, Seattle lost for just the fourth time in its past 13 on the road and is now in danger of losing three in a row for the first time since Oct. 23-Nov. 6, 2011.
The Seahawks still have more wins over the past five weeks than the Panthers, who are 1-3-1 since beginning the campaign with consecutive wins. They followed up a Week 6 tie at Cincinnati with last weekend's 38-17 setback in Green Bay.
After rushing for a season-high 107 yards the previous game, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was held to 41 yards running on seven carries while throwing for 205 yards. He was picked off once with a touchdown pass as well.
The Panthers, though, trailed 21-0 after the first quarter and 28-0 late in the second before Graham Gano hit a 33-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart returned from a three-week absence caused by a knee injury and ran for 55 yards on 14 carries. Tight end Greg Olsen had eight catches for 105 yards and rookie wide out Kelvin Benjamin added three receptions for 62 yards.
That was the case Sunday as TE Greg Olsen had eight receptions for 105 yards and rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin caught three passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.
"I don't think the defense gave us an opportunity to win in the first quarter," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "I'm disappointed."
The good news is that the Panthers still lead the NFC South ahead of 2-4 New Orleans.
Seattle leads the all-time series 4-2 and has won three in a row over Carolina.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
There wasn't much time for the Seahawks' players to process the Harvin trade, but Carroll said he thought his club handed it well.
"They took it in stride," the coach said this week. "I think they trust our decision-making and they've stood by us throughout and I don't think there is any fall out at all."
Harvin was leading Seattle with 22 catches to go along with 133 yards while adding 92 rushing yards and a score on the ground.
Baldwin's big game put him atop the club with 23 catches with 310 yards. There will now be plenty of more balls up for grabs for the likes of Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette, with Baldwin set to see more time in the slot.
"Yes, he's been very effective there for us in the slot, Carroll said of Baldwin. "He's played a lot of outside stuff for us, which he does fine, but he's always been really difficult to cover inside. He's got a great sense for it -- he and Russell have a good chemistry and I think that was pretty obvious that that was back in our favor; hoping we'll continue to get that from those guys."
Wilson had his big day on the ground and Seattle posted 171 yards rushing despite losing fullback Derrick Coleman to a cracked bone in his foot during warmups. Coleman is expected to miss at least a few games with the injury and running back Robert Turbin played fullback for the first time in his absence.
Seattle will now be able to scheme better for the loss of its lone fullback and could allow Turbin to help in the blocking again this weekend.
Regardless, the Seahawks will try to keep its second-ranked ground game on track against a Panthers club that is giving up 137.6 yards per game on the ground to sit 26th in the NFL.
Carolina also ranks 22nd against the pass and has allowed 30 or more points in four of its last five games.
"We have to be more discipline and make plays when they are there to be made," Rivera told Carolina's website.
Wilson and Newton are two talented quarterbacks that make plays with their arm and legs, but Newton will be going up against a Seattle unit that yields just 85.5 yards per game on the ground.
Carolina also is banged up along the offensive line, losing guard Trai Turner to a knee injury and tackle Byron Bell to an elbow issue last weekend. Turner will not play in this game, while Bell could return.
"The news on Byron was a lot better than we expected, thank goodness," Rivera said on Carolina's website. "We'll see how he reacts on Wednesday. He just has to get that strength back and get that swelling down."
Rivera also said that he is optimistic starting guard Amini Silatolu could return for this game after sitting out versus the Packers because of an injured calf.
In addition to getting Stewart back, running back DeAngelo Williams could return from an ankle sprain that has sidelined him for the past three weeks.
Even with Newton's contributions -- he leads the club with 190 yards rushing, Carolina is putting up just 89.9 yards per game on the ground.
Williams, though, is averaging 4.2 yards per carry on 25 attempts.
Cornerback James Dockery could be tested by the Seahawks offense this weekend as he moves into the nickel spot vacated by the released Charles Godfrey. Godfrey was shifting to the role after playing safety the first six seasons of his career and started last weekend with Bene Benwikere inactive due to an ankle issue.
It's been rare to see the Seahawks stumble like this, but the club draws a favorable matchup as it tries to get on track.
Seattle's strength on offense is usually dictated by running the ball and that is something that Carolina has failed to stop this season. Wilson and Marshawn Lynch should get the Panthers on their heels and open up things in the passing game.
Carolina has been a better passing team this season and will likely need to go to the air if Seattle gets off to a fast start. The one thing working in the Panthers' favor is the Seahawks having to travel to the east coast, but that won't be enough to slow down the hungry club.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Seahawks 20, Panthers 17