26: Where the Seahawks rank in terms of covering opposing tight ends, according to Football Outsiders. Greg Olsen had seven catches for 131 yards and a touchdown in Carolina's Week 6 victory in Seattle. Olsen's 123 targets were tied for second among tight ends during the regular season.
"The quarterback throws it to him as much as he possibly can," Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard said. "Whether he's covered or not, the ball is going there."
So what's the Seahawks' plan? When they're in man coverage, it'll likely most often be strong safety Kam Chancellor matching up with Olsen. But when the Seahawks are in their base Cover 3, it will be a matter of communicating and paying extra attention to Olsen. Every coverage has weaknesses, but Richard is not willing to accept that as an excuse.
"Our zone coverages, we should be able to take away all the openings and things like that if we go out there and do what we're supposed to do," he said.
5.54: The number of points per red zone trip the Panthers have averaged this season. That's tops in the league. The Seahawks' defense is allowing 4.37 points per red zone trip, which is fourth-best. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton's numbers in the red zone are absurd: 24 passing touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. caught six of those, and Devin Funchess had five red-zone touchdowns.
Newton's 10 rushing touchdowns in the red zone were tied for fifth in the NFL. In what will likely be a close game, holding the Panthers to field goals in the red zone will be crucial.
1.82: The average yards before contact per rush by Seahawks' opponents in the regular season. That was the lowest number in the league. Led by Michael Bennett, Seattle did a great job of making plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. But the Panthers' run game is much different than the Vikings', mainly because it features Newton and a lot of option concepts.
"It is a really diverse running game," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "It is the most that we’ll see in the NFL. There’s nobody that does more stuff, and it’s basically because the quarterback is such a dynamic part of it. They’re willing to run the quarterback inside, outside, lead plays, powers, all of the read stuff as well. This is the most difficult offense that we face, and it’s really because Cam is such an adept player. A lot of teams have some plays that they use, but nobody relies on the quarterback to run like they do. He’s got 10 touchdowns rushing this year, and those aren’t quarterback sneaks at the goal line. They’re from all over the place."
This week is more about Seahawks defenders staying disciplined than piling up tackles for loss.
76.5: Russell Wilson's completion percentage when targeting wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett since Week 11. Those two players have combined for 17 touchdown catches over the eight-game span.
Much of the attention this week has been on Marshawn Lynch's return, but the truth is this could be a game that Wilson has to win with his arm. The Panthers are down two of their top three corners and do not have safeties with great coverage ability. If Wilson can get adequate protection, he should be able to connect with Baldwin and Lockett quite a bit.
8: Lynch's total yards before contact on 17 carries during the October matchup against the Panthers. The Seahawks' offensive line has improved, but Seattle is starting the same five players up front. Defensive tackle Kawann Short and linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis gave presented all kinds of problems for the Seahawks' run game the first time around. Whatever Lynch got (17 carries, 54 yards), he earned on his own.
Running the football figures to be difficult for the Seahawks regardless of who the ball carrier is, and don't be surprised if they mix in even more read-option than normal.