Positional Breakdown: Panthers vs. Seahawks Week 1 Matchup
Week 1 matchup -- Carolina Panthers vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Carolina Panthers open the season Sunday, September 8 against what most people consider to be the no. 1 team in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks. This will not be an easy game for the Panthers, and they are definitely considered the underdog. There are many aspects in this game to consider. Every battle on both sides of the ball will be crucial in determining the outcome of the game.
Based off the statistics from last year, the Seahawks have a more dominant running back, a stronger defense, and an overall more successful organization. After the acquisitions from the offseason and the performances during the pre-season, the Panthers have made great improvements and have a great shot at achieving the upset.
The Panthers named their six starters and will be looking for them to lead their team and make big plays. On defense, linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis will bear the captain mark. They will be calling the plays at the line as they see Seattle’s formation and will be expected to put pressure on the quarterback and stuff the run game.
On offense, they have four veteran captains in Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Ryan Kalil and Jordan Gross. The two offensive linemen will be expecting to protect Newton so he can find his no. 1 target in Smith. The Seahawks are great at blitzing and putting pressure on the quarterback.
With the game fast approaching, I will break down all the position battles between the Panthers and the Seahawks.
At the quarter back position for both teams are two very young guys. The Panthers have Newton returning for his third year. He has grown a lot as a person and a player. Last year, Newton was criticized for being immature and letting his emotions affect his play. Since then, he has picked his head up and is ready to come out swinging in the 2013 season. On the other side of field is Seattle’s quarterback Russell Wilson. He is returning from a fantastic rookie season after leading his team to the second round of playoffs before losing to the Atlanta Falcons. Wilson and Newton are two players with similar play styles. They have quick feet and can hurt any defense if they are forced to scramble out of the pocket. With little inconsistency of accuracy, it will be a matter of who makes the least careless mistakes with the ball.
The wide receiver position is a tough one to break down. Last year, the Panthers had two players in Smith and Greg Olson who outperformed the Seahawks' no. 1 option. The problem with the Panthers is their lack of a second wide receiver option. If Brandon Lafell or Ted Ginn can establish themselves as a threat, the Panthers will have a better chance at winning the game. The Seahawks need to establish a no. 1 receiver. They brought in superstar Percy Harvin, but he will be missing most of the season due to surgery. Although the Seahawks don’t have a standout option at receiver, Wilson was still able to throw for 26 touchdowns last season, which is seven more than Newton had.
At the running back position, Seattle has a clear advantage. Marshawn Lynch was at the top of the league in rushing yards and punched the ball in for 11 touchdowns last season. He is a hard runner who can hit the holes with power, and has speed to break away once in the open. He is a very difficult running back to bring down, and he is expected to do great things this season. Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams has been at the top of the league and also at the bottom. He has had issues with injury in the past, but is now fully healthy and ready to handle most of the workload at running back. With Jonathan Stewart out for most of the season, Williams will be taking most snaps behind Newton. He is a small elusive back, but runs with power and heart. The Panthers like to pound the ball down the middle but every now and then, Williams can break outside the tackles and run for a first down and more. He may not have the same success as Lynch is expected to, but if Williams can stay healthy, he will be a solid player for the Panthers' offense.
Defensive Line and Linebackers
On defense, it seems to be a good matchup for both teams. The Seahawks had a much better season last year, but they only excelled further in interceptions over the Panthers. Seattle recorded a total of 18 fumbles, 36 sacks and 18 interceptions throughout last season. The Panthers recorded a total of 16 fumbles, 39 sacks and 11 interceptions last season. Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner led the team in 140 tackles, and their defensive end Chris Clemmons led the team with 11.5 sacks. Both players are returning this season with the expectation to perform even better than last year. The Panthers have Kuechly coming off the best rookie season for a defensive player last year as he led the league in total tackles. Also, Panthers signed defensive end Charles Johnson to a huge contract extension after he led the team in sacks last year with 12.5. The battle at the line will be the biggest factor in the game. Whoever controls the line of scrimmage will have the best chance of winning the game.
The last matchup to consider is the secondary. Seattle’s secondary recorded 18 interceptions last year, returning two for a touchdown. The Panthers struggled a little more and only recorded 11 interceptions, but returned three for a touchdown. The Panthers have made many changes to the secondary, releasing veterans such as Chris Gamble, Drayton Florence and Haruki Nakamura. However, they brought in veteran Quintin Mikell and Mike Mitchell to play alongside Charles Godfrey. The biggest concern is the inexperience at the cornerback position. The Seahawks have great returning players in their secondary. Cornerback Richard Sherman recorded eight interceptions alone last year, and his safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are coming off a solid year. Many teams struggled with the passing game against the Seahawks last year. The secondary thrived off the fact that their front eight were getting to the quarterback and forcing wild throws. It will be interesting to see how Newton responds to the pressure and if he can break down the secondary and create some scoring drives.
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