Luggage got here, thankfully, along with the cold, wet weather. It was 80 degrees in Charlotte a few days ago, now it is about 45, raining and windy -- perfect for the Seahawks.
The first thing to Seahawks need to guard against is the natural complacency that comes with not having a great deal left to play for. I have to believe that there is not the same sense of urgency now that there was six weeks ago. Not that the Seahawks should not win this game, they clearly are far superior, even if Vinny Testaverde plays, but the Panthers have some talent and could steal this game away, particularly with the travel.
How will they guard Steve Smith? I wrote about the way he was guarded in the 2005 NFC championship game in today's News Tribunebut I doubt he will garner the same amount of attention that he did in that game. I wouldn't be surprised to see Marcus Trufant put on Smith like he was put on Chad Johnson, then given some help from the safeties.
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How will the secondary look if Brian Russell is out of the game? Russell is so important because he and Deon Grant make the play calls for the secondary. Grant will still be in there against his former team, but Jordan Babineaux does not have the same type of experience in setting up the defense that Russell does.
Can the running game get going again? While Mo Morris and Shaun Alexander shared the carries last week, neither was particularly effective. The run game should be set up by the passing game this week again. Consider this: Patrick Kerney's 13 1/2 sacks are only 2 1/2 less than the entire Carolina defense. The offensive line should be able to protect Matt Hasselbeck, who has looked good in practice all week and can pick apart the defense. Then they can hand it to Mo and Shaun, especially if the rain keeps falling.
Will Patrick Kerney add to his league leading sack total? He nearly was caught by Houston's Mario Williams, who now has 13. Kerney is sure to get some additional attention, though he plays so hard that that may enable him to get one or two more. But Darryl Tapp has not been heard from in quite a while, maybe the attention that Kerney gets will free something up on the other side.
Will Bobby Engram achieve his first 1,000-yard season? All he needs is 71 yards to reach the milestone, which is easily obtainable given the kind of season he is having. One thing I find interesting is what is going to happen to DJ Hackett. They have Engram, who is having a career year, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson, and I'm sure they would like to see what rookie Courtney Taylor can eventually do. Hackett is a talent, certainly, but rarely a healthy one. It'll be interesting to see what happens with him in free agency this year.