The Seattle Seahawks have done enough to be in good position in terms of the NFC playoff picture.
So, they certainly can't afford a slip-up against an inconsistent Carolina Panthers team in a matchup this Sunday in Seattle.
"To get a win is hard to get," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
The Seahawks (7-5) snapped a two-game skid by rallying past the Los Angeles Rams last week in a 27-23 win. In some ways, Seattle could be prone for a letdown.
Carolina (4-8), coming off an open week on its schedule, somehow isn't far from playoff position in the slumping NFC South, so the Panthers still have plenty to play for under interim coach Steve Wilks. They're only two games out of first place.
"The message is we still keep it one at a time," Wilks said. "We have to go do something we haven't done all year, which is win on the road. Seattle is playing well and they're pushing for the playoffs. If we want to be in that conversation, we have to create that playoff mentality."
For years, the Seahawks seemed to have Carolina's number behind the play of quarterback Russell Wilson. He's with the Denver Broncos now, and the Panthers pinned a loss on him in their most recent matchup.
Now they'll try to avenge some of the frustrations they've incurred against Seattle. The Seahawks have won eight of 10 matchups since 2010, including playoffs. Overall, Seattle leads the series 10-4, including postseason meetings.
The Seahawks have quarterback Geno Smith rising in popularity.
Running back Kenneth Walker III is hobbled, though, so that could become an issue. He didn't practice Wednesday.
"Geno is doing an excellent job just running the offense," Wilks said. "I know there are some questions about their running back position. Their offense, you see they're very efficient in the things they do."
Carolina running back D'Onta Foreman is likely to play after sustaining an injured left foot two weeks ago.
The Panthers made news this week by releasing Baker Mayfield, who had been the opening-day starter at quarterback. But with Sam Darnold and PJ Walker ahead of him, Mayfield asked to be let go and was granted his request.
"Baker has been nothing but a professional since he has been here," Wilks said. "... Just looking at the body of work the last couple of weeks, I feel that PJ has been productive when he has been in there."
Darnold will be the starter, and he might try to exploit some questionable areas in the Seattle secondary. Seahawks safety Josh Jones has gone on injured reserve with a hamstring injury sustained last week, meaning defensive back Johnathan Abram might be making his debut with the team Sunday.
Safety Ryan Neal has been dinged up as well.
Still, the Seahawks should feel good about the progress of cornerback Tariq Woolen. His six interceptions are the most by a Seattle rookie in franchise history and tied for the NFL lead this season.
Wilks said Carolina needs to show it can win on the road (0-5 this season, nine straight road losses dating back to November 2021), noting that doing so in front of a hostile environment in Seattle is a heightened challenge.
--Field Level Media