I'm really interested to watch two things Sunday for the Carolina-Seattle game at 4:05 p.m.: how well the Seahawks rush Cam Newton and how well the Panthers contain running back Marshawn Lynch.
The Seahawks decimated Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers in the first half of their game -- sacking him an astonishing eight times. Newton and his offensive line have quite a task in front of them.
Lynch is having a Pro Bowl type of year so far for the Seahawks -- the least number of rushing yards he had had in any game this year is 85. Lynch has only two fewer rushing yards by himself as DeAngelo Williams, Newton and Jonathan Stewart do put together (423 for Lynch, 425 for the Panthers' trio). I think Lynch and Newton will have more to do with who wins this game than any other player, including Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
Because Seattle's run defense is so good -- the Seahawks are No.2 in the NFL in yards per carry (2.99) -- Newton's arm will be as important as it ever has been.
** Justin Medlock has an important job Sunday -- kick the ball all the way out of the end zone so Seattle's Leon Washington can't get to it. Washington is one of the most dangerous kickoff return men in the game, averaging an astonishing 37.7 yards per kickoff return so far this season. He's good on punt returns, too. The Panthers' coverage teams have been improved this season, but Washington will really test them.
** Carolina and Seattle don't play each other very much, and when they do the games haven't been terribly significant except for one. That was the 2005 NFC Championship, played in Seattle and won easily by the Seahawks, 34-14.
That game doesn't seem terribly long ago -- I still remember being shocked at how loud the crowd in Seattle was and how bad Jake Delhomme and the Panthers' offense was (until midway in the fourth quarter, Carolina's only score was on a Steve Smith punt return). Only four Panther players on that 2005 team remain on this one: Smith, Thomas Davis, Chris Gamble and Jordan Gross.
** Carolina-Seattle fact that may be interesting only to me: When the two teams last played in 2010 (and Seattle won), Seattle's kicker was Olindo Mare.
** Prediction time: I missed the Panthers' result the first two weeks and have hit it the last two. Sunday's pick: Carolina 24, Seattle 20.
Benjamin expected to return Saturday
8 hours ago