Panthers on offense: Losing DeShaun Foster to a broken fibula last weekend wasn't the worst thing that could've happened to Carolina (see Steve Smith). The Panthers got by without an injured Stephen Davis, and they will without Foster thanks to Nick Goings. The fifth-year back has yet to duplicate his 2004 success, but Goings needs carries to get going -- Carolina is 8-1 when he gets at least 16 totes. Seattle's hard-hitting safeties will be hunting for Smith across the middle. The sudden emergence of 6-foot-3-inch Drew Carter has given Jake Delhomme another deep option.
Seahawks on defense: The league's No. 2 defense against the run held the Redskins to 2.4 yards per carry last weekend. But the secondary had trouble keeping up with Washington's Santana Moss, who's as similar as it gets to Smith. Seattle had the most sacks in the league (50), but struggled to get two against an injured Redskins front.
Seahawks on offense: Shaun Alexander has been cleared to play by his doctors and his conscience after last weekend's concussion. He's been stung before, and he's still never missed a game in his pro career. Against the Panthers last season he gouged out 6.1 yards per carry en route to 195 yards total. There's nothing wrong with a little Mack Strong, either. The Pro Bowl fullback averaged 13.3 yards on three carries last week. Matt Hasselbeck's confidence must be high, but he'll need more diversity in his approach: Darrell Jackson had nine catches, nobody else had more than two.
Panthers on defense: Opponents are 4 for 20 on third down during the playoffs after Carolina ranked 15th in the NFC in the regular season. However, eight of the 32 first downs they've allowed in the playoffs have come via penalty. A sore shoulder could hinder edge rusher Julius Peppers.
Special teams: Through two playoff games, Carolina has yet to allow a field goal. John Kasay on the other hand is 6 for 6 . . . Seattle's Tom Rouen is an experienced playoff punter who knows better than to give Smith a clean look at a return . . . Seahawks kicker Josh Brown was 11 for 13 on field goal attempts at Qwest Field, and just 7 of 12 away from home . . . Josh Scobey fumbled a fourth-quarter kickoff last weekend, but it didn't cost Seattle any points.
Miscellany: Carolina is 8-2 on the road this season; Seattle is 9-0 at home . . . Delhomme (108.4 rating in six postseason games) has a four-game road winning streak in the playoffs . . . A win would make Seattle's Mike Holmgren just the fifth coach to lead two franchises to the Super Bowl . . . A week of rain in Seattle is expected to give way by Sunday, with temperatures in the mid-40s.