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Five things to watch at Seattle: Back after the bye week

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CHARLOTTE – The Panthers return to action off their bye week with a chance to accomplish two feats for the first time this season: Earn a second-straight win and tally a victory on the road.

Carolina (4-8) travels to face the Seahawks (7-5) for a 4:25 p.m. kickoff at Lumen Field on Sunday.

Seattle has lost two of its last three matchups but got back in the win column last week against the Rams, while the Panthers need a victory to keep pace in the NFC South after Tampa Bay extended its division lead to two games with a Monday night win over New Orleans.

Here are five things to watch in Week 14:

FOREMAN READY TO RUN

Running back D'Onta Foreman (foot) started the week on the injury report, but he received no injury designation for the Seattle game. It's excellent news for the Panthers, considering Foreman will likely have a prominent role against a leaky Seahawks' run defense.

Seattle is allowing 155.3 rush yards per game on average, second-worst in the league. The Seahawks gave up 161 rush yards on 44 attempts in a Week 10 loss to the Buccaneers and 283 rush yards on 40 attempts in a Week 12 loss to the Raiders. They had a tough time keeping up with Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs, who put up 229 yards and two touchdowns against Seattle, including an 86-yard game-winning touchdown rush.

The Panthers are 3-1 in games where Foreman rushes for more than 100 yards, and he put up 113 yards on Denver's defense on 24 carries in Carolina's Week 12 win. 

Foreman is joined by Chuba Hubbard and Raheem Blackshear on the roster, and both can provide a different style to Foreman's downhill specialty. Hubbard put up 65 yards against Denver, his best performance since returning from an ankle injury, and Blackshear has progressed in his rookie season.

NEUTRALIZING GENO SMITH

Carolina will want to run the ball for more reasons than one, as it'll be essential to keep the ball out of Seattle quarterback Geno Smith's hands as much as possible.

Smith is on a tear in the most efficient season of his career, boasting an NFL-best 72.7 completion percentage and coming off a season-high game in a win over Los Angeles.

Smith put up 367 yards on 28-of-39 passing with three touchdowns and an interception against the Rams, his sixth game with 275 pass yards or more.

The Seahawks find success through the air, averaging 244.4 passing yards per game, seventh in the league. Smith leads a high-scoring offense, ranked fifth in the league with 26.5 points per game. 

Smith landed on the injury report this week with a right shoulder injury, though he didn't receive an injury status for the Carolina game. 

Seattle will likely continue to lean on the pass while rookie running back Kenneth Walker III did not participate in practice this week while he deals with an ankle injury he sustained early against the Rams. Walker was impressive in place of Rashaad Penny, out for the year with an ankle injury, putting up 649 yards on 138 carries with nine touchdowns. Walker was listed as questionable on the Seahawks' Friday injury report. 

The Panthers have four players questionable for Seattle as they work through injuries, and all are on the defense – linebacker Cory Littleton (ankle) and safety Xavier Woods (knee) were both limited participants in Friday's practice, while defensive back Myles Hartsfield (ankle) and defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis (calf) participated in full.

KEEPING PACE WITH METCALF, LOCKETT

Carolina's defensive backs will have their hands full with the Seahawks' strength in the pass. 

Seattle boasts talented pass catchers in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and each demands a high level of attention from the Panthers' starting cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and CJ Henderson.

Lockett leads the Seahawks with 836 receiving yards on 66 catches and seven touchdowns, a mark tied for fifth in the league. Metcalf has totaled 798 yards on 67 receptions with five touchdowns, averaging 11.9 yards per catch. 

Metcalf, a 2020 Pro Bowler, landed on the injury report with a hip issue on Thursday and didn't practice Friday. He's listed as questionable for the Carolina game.

ANOTHER SHOT FOR SAM DARNOLD

Sam Darnold did what he needed to do in his first start of 2022: a Panthers win over Denver before the bye. He threw for 164 yards on 11-of-19 passing with a touchdown, but perhaps most imperatively, Darnold didn't commit any turnovers. 

Darnold kept the ball secure, recovering his own fumble against the Broncos on an eventual scoop-and-roll into the end zone for a touchdown.

Avoiding mistakes is going to be critical against a young and talented Seattle secondary, which features impressive rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen. 

Woolen leads the NFL with eight takeaways in 2022 and is tied for the most interceptions this season at six. Fellow rookie cornerback Coby Bryant is tied at the top of the league with four forced fumbles, while linebacker Jordyn Brooks is second in the league with 131 tackles.

MILESTONES ON THE HORIZON

Multiple Panthers are close to reaching statistical milestones, including long snapper JJ Jansen, who will pass John Kasay for the most games played in franchise history when he suits up for his 222nd game against the Seahawks.

Defensive tackle Derrick Brown, who was announced as Carolina's 2022 nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award this week, needs five tackles to tie Kawann Short for the most tackles by a Panthers defensive tackle in a single season. Brown already has 50 tackles through the season's first 12 games. 

Linebacker Shaq Thompson needs 11 tackles for his fourth consecutive season with at least 100 tackles. He has put up 10 or more tackles in three games this season – all road games – against the Giants in Week 2, the Falcons in Week 8, and the Bengals in Week 10.

View photos from Thursday's practice as the Panthers prepare to take on the Seahawks.

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