With the start to the NFL season less than 24 hours away, all teams are still scrambling to prepare for their opponents. The Carolina Panthers have the toughest first game against the Seattle Seahawks, a team many consider to be best in the league. The San Francisco 49ers appear to be the team competing the most for that number one spot in the league. They open up the season against the Green Bay Packers, and it will be a great game for anyone to watch. However, the Panthers have much more to prove considering how they didn’t have a winning season last year and are desperate for a playoff appearance.
Carolina has a very solid team this year with most of their returning stars healthy. They have made many adjustments on both sides of the ball, and have had a great preseason with a 3-1 record. Carolina’s defense was ranked in the middle of the pack last year against both the running and the passing game. However, they will need to step it up if they plan to slow down Marshawn Lynch, a powerful running back who is not afraid to lower his pads and run between the tackles. The Panthers have some of the best linebackers in the game, so it will be a fun match to watch. The difference maker is the battle at the line. The Panthers will need their first round pick and veteran defensive linemen to put pressure on Russell Wilson and make him force a bad throw.
Seattle’s defense was one of the best in the league last year. Their strong defense and amazing performance from Wilson and Lynch is what led them to a solid 11-5 season and a spot in the playoffs. In order to defeat Seattle, Cam Newton is going to have to be smart with ball by not forcing the it into double coverage and not trying to be a hero. The Panthers are really going to need either Brandon Lafell or Ted Ginn to step up and make the defense respect them as much as they do Steve Smith.
DeAngelo Williams is going to have to pick up yardage on the ground to relieve Newton and the passing game. This will force the Seahawks to be more selective on their defense and limit the blitz plays they call. If Williams can jump outside the tackles every now and then for 10 or more yards, the Panthers will have a solid chance for an upset. If all else fails, get the ball into field goal range and let Graham Gano boot it through the poles for three points. Field goals alone may put a lot of pressure on the Panther’s defense to keep Seattle out of the end zone, but three points are better than a punt any day.