Opening day. It’s finally here. The Seahawks open up their season with championship hopes, but must take the season one game at a time, and that starts with the Carolina Panthers today. The Panthers only went 7-9 last season and did not make the playoffs, but that does not mean they should be taken lightly.
The Carolina Panthers had an astonishing 1-7 record in games decided by 6 points or less, which means that they were very close to being a very good team. Offensively, they are clearly led by third year quarterback Cam Newton. Cam is one of the most talented yet immature players in the NFL, but his supporting cast doesn’t do much to help him. Steve Smith is his most talented skill player, but he is 34 years old. DeAngelo Williams was once a skilled running back, but is now on the wrong side of 30 and has been declining in production for years. That being said, Newton has enough talent to carry the entire offense on his back, and is dangerous throwing the ball as well as running with it.
The Legion of Boom should be able to shut down the Panthers passing attack, but I worry about how the front seven will be able to stop Newton when he runs the ball. He is 6 foot 5 and 245 pounds which makes him bigger than every Seahawks linebacker except for K.J. Wright. The weakness of the defense last year was the run stopping, so it will be interesting to see if the Hawks decide to stack the box against the Panthers. Whatever they decide to do, I think the Hawks will be able to hold Newton in check and keep the Panthers offense down.
The toughest test for the Hawks against the Panthers will be when we are on offense. I expect the Panthers to have one of the better defensive units in the NFL this season from their front seven all the way back to the defensive backfield. Perennial Pro-Bowler Jon Beason will return from injury to be paired with the defensive rookie of the year in Luke Kuechly to form a terrifying linebacking crew, while rookie Star Lotuleilei will add to an already solid defensive line. Captain Munnerlyn and Charles Godfrey lead a strong secondary that will test the Seahawks receivers. All of that being said, over the second half of the 2012 season the Seahawks had a top five offensive unit, and for a team with championship aspirations, the Panthers should not stop the Hawks offense.
Marshawn Lynch will still be able to get his, and I expect him to get over 100 yards. I expect Russell Wilson to continue his incredible efficiency last year keeping his interception down and his yards per attempt up. One of the questions about the offense will be how much read-option they incorporate this year, as starting around week 12 last year they used it with great effectiveness. I think this will be a tougher test for the Hawks than some people think, but we still should be able to come out with a win.
Prediction: 27-17 Hawks victory
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