SEATTLE -- This Sunday's matchup between the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks was seen at the beginning of the season as one of the marquee games of 2016. And at the center (or under center, if you will) -- the seventh meeting of two of the best young quarterbacks in football.
While the Sunday Night Football game at CenturyLink Field itself won't have quite the national luster because of the Panthers' disappointing season (4-7, last place in NFC South), the Russell Wilson-Cam Newton show is still a must-see. With no more Tom Brady-Peyton Manning matchups to tout, the NFL needs to nurture this growing rivalry which currently isn't scheduled to be renewed until 2019.
Since the teams first met in the Wilson-Newton series, the Seahawks have a 4-2 edge on the Panthers, with Carolina sweeping last year's two games. Statistically, Wilson has come out on top in the six previous matchups.
Despite his early season injuries, a weak offensive line, and lack of a running game to support him, Wilson is on pace to throw for a career-high in yards (2,865 through 11 games) and a career low in interceptions (4). But he's also on track for a career-low in touchdown passes (11) and rushing yards (159).
Newton is the reigning league MVP. But he's posted a career-worst quarterback rating through 10 games (81.4) and has completed less than 56% of his passes while throwing for 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He's still a ground threat with five touchdowns rushing. He missed one game while under the league's concussion protocol.
Neither quarterback has avoided taking lots of hits. Newton has been sacked 27 times and Wilson is right behind with 26. It could get worse for Newton this Sunday. Carolina has lost its starting and backup centers for the season, while Seahawks Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett may be back following knee surgery.
The status of Panthers perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly remains in the air following a concussion two weeks ago. On the other side, Seahawks center Justin Britt may return from an ankle injury. Safety Earl Thomas remains a question mark with a hamstring strain.
The Seahawks are trying to become the first team in the Super Bowl era to lead the league in scoring defense for five straight seasons. They currently are No. 1, giving up 17.0 points per game. The Panthers are surrendering 25.5 points per game.
The Seahawks are also plus-5 in turnover differential while the Panthers are minus-5.