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Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers: Preview and Pick
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers: Preview and Pick
The Seattle Seahawks enter the 2013 season as one of the favorites to take away the championship and win the Super Bowl. The road to the championship will not be easy for the ‘Hawks however as they have a demanding road schedule. The tough NFL highway schedule starts in week one as the Birds will fly east to take on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers Odds
Seattle is getting some tremendous respect by the oddsmakers as they are road favorites in week one with only a handful of other teams. The opening point spread had the Seahawks as (-3.5) point favorites, but since that opening, the line has lowered slightly and is now at (-3) at several top rated online sportsbooks.
The Seahawks are getting all of the attention with the emergence of young gunslinger Russell Wilson. Wilson blew up the NFL scene a year ago giving the Seattle offense a complimentary piece to running back Marshawn Lynch who is easily one of the best runners in the NFL today. This offense works well with the Seattle defense that shuts down the opposition by attacking the ball on every play.
The defensive front line improved in the off season as all of a sudden the Seahawks are a place all of the free agents want to play. This team has one of the best home field advantages in all of sports, but unfortunately in week one, they will be on the road against the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers are off a disappointing season as quarterback Cam newton failed to live up to expectations after a successful rookie season. It was a very difficult year but Newton learned a valuable lesson and will bring that experience to the field this season and look to hit his favorite target Steve Smith early and often.
The Panthers have a defensive superstar in the making in Luke Kuechly. He has the potential to make this Panthers defense one of the best in the league.
The sports betting trends for this game are good for both teams. The Seahawks are 4-0 against the spread (ATS) in their last 4 road games and 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games overall. The Panthers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games on grass, 5-1 ATS in their last 6 against the NFC and 4-0 ATS in the last four games overall.
These teams will both look for a big win in week one to get the season started on a positive note.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers Pick
With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
Seattle is the new “it” team in the NFL, with an energetic, music playlist-tweeting coach, a young, dual-threat quarterback and a stacked roster that has made the Seahawks a trendy Super Bowl pick.
Seattle put two players – the aforementioned Russell Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman – on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a six-week span. And Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s feel-good philosophy – featuring sports psychology, meditation sessions and team-wide yoga classes – is the cover subject of ESPN the Magazine’s NFL preview issue.
The Panthers, who play host to Seattle in the Sept. 8 opener, don’t care how many magazine covers the Seahawks have graced or how many Downward Facing Dog yoga poses they’ve struck.
Carolina will be looking for a little old-school payback against the new-age Seahawks – and a rare Week 1 victory – when the teams kick it off at Bank of America Stadium next weekend. “I guess they’re the poster boy of the NFL right now,” Panthers second-year corner Josh Norman said. “They’re doing a lot of really good things. But so are we. ... It’s going to be a great matchup.”
“I’m glad they’ve got a buzz. I’m glad they’re feeling good about themselves,” Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy added. “But if they don’t block, they don’t run, they don’t score – they don’t win. It’s as simple as that.”
There’s little buzz surrounding the Panthers despite a strong finish in 2012, when they won five of their last six games after a 2-8 start. Sports Illustrated ranked the Panthers the NFC’s worst team, predicting them to finish with a 6-10 record. Such a scenario would hasten the end of the Ron Rivera era.
Seattle went 11-5 last season. Only a 49-yard field goal by Atlanta’s Matt Bryant kept the Seahawks out of the NFC championship game.
Carroll beefed up an inconsistent pass rush by signing defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. The Seahawks gave Wilson another weapon by trading for wideout Percy Harvin, although the former Viking is out a minimum of three months following hip surgery.
Harvin is not the only missing Seahawk. Three of Seattle’s defensive ends are either injured or suspended. Avril is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury, Chris Clemons is coming off ACL surgery and Bruce Irvin will sit the first four games after testing positive for a banned substance.
But plenty of talent remains on both sides of the ball. Sherman and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are part of a physical secondary, while running back Marshawn Lynch and wideouts Golden Tate and Sidney Rice are among the playmakers at Wilson’s disposal. “They’re stacked,” Panthers corner Captain Munnerlyn said. “And I feel like we’re pretty good ourselves.”
Wilson is the straw that stirs the Seahawks’ double-shot macchiato. At 5-11, the former N.C. State and Wisconsin standout was thought to be too small to see over the hulking linemen in the NFL.
The Panthers eyed Wilson as a possible late-round pick who could serve as a mini-Cam Newton in their zone read packages. But the Seahawks took him in the third round, and he started all 16 games, throwing for 3,000 yards and running for nearly 500.
“I think Russell Wilson rejuvenated that team,” said Panthers’ radio analyst Eugene Robinson, who played 11 of his 16 NFL seasons in Seattle. “That team has always been a good, solid team. But having the quarterback that they have – probably one of the most sensational quarterbacks they’ve had.
“I remember Dave Krieg and Jim Zorn, not to mention (Matt) Hasselbeck. But with the advent of the read option, I think Russell Wilson and his calm demeanor have probably taken that city by storm.”
Norman trained with Wilson before last year’s draft at IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., where Wilson was the smallest big man on IMG’s 450-acre campus.
“I knew he was going to be special because his accuracy is off the chain. I’ve never met another quarterback who’s accurate the way he is, as (short) as he is,” Norman said. “He can do a lot of things and create a lot of mismatches. He can scramble out of the pocket and try to create something. And when he throws it, it’s on point.”
Wilson outplayed Newton in the Seahawks’ 16-12 win in Charlotte in Week 5 last year. Wilson completed 19 of 25 passes for 221 yards, while Newton connected on just 12-of-29 passes for a career-low 141 yards. The Panthers faced a fourth-and-goal at the 1 with less than four minutes left, but Newton bounced a pass at the feet of an open Ben Hartsock in the end zone.
The Panthers sacked Wilson twice and also intercepted him twice – including a pick that Munnerlyn returned 33 yards for a score on Carolina’s longest play of the game.
Hardy, who had one of the two sacks on Wilson, aims to bring the heat on him again.
“He’s a great quarterback. He’s got some good blockers. But you know how we get down,” Hardy said. “We’re bringing it for four quarters. We’re going to tire him out. He can run all he wants. Eventually we’re going to catch him.”
Chris Clemons proved to be a quick healer. He’s fast approaching a return to action after reconstructive knee surgery in January. It just won’t happen at Carolina this Sunday.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters Monday that his team’s leading sack man the past three seasons will practice for the first time Wednesday, but he has been ruled out for the team’s season opener against the Panthers.
Clemons has made steady progress in his rehab work with trainers, which led to Carroll placing him on the active roster with the hope he can return to action in a few weeks. “We’re real excited about that,” Carroll said. “He’s had a great preparation to get back. It will be light on Wednesday. But he’s been really busting it, so we’ll just bring him along, and we’re going to take our time.”
The Seahawks can use the help up front defensively, with several defensive linemen nursing nagging injuries. Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel are expected to return to practice after missing the last exhibition game against Oakland with groin injuries.
Defensive tackle Michael Bennett returned to practice on Monday after having a procedure on his toe over the weekend. Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill likely will miss Sunday’s game because of a strained biceps, but is expected back on the field soon. Top free-agent signee Cliff Avril’s availability remains uncertain because of lingering hamstring issues.
With all the injuries up front, recently acquired of defensive tackle D’Anthony Thomas, who came in a trade with Jacksonville, will get an opportunity to contribute. Thomas is familiar with Seattle’s defensive scheme from his time playing for former Seahawks defensive coordinator and current Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley.
“We were looking for a little depth here, and a guy who could battle for us,” Carroll said about Thomas. “We liked his movement. And he could understand our system. He got indoctrinated a little bit from his other camp. He looked active enough that he could help us, and he’s active and fit. So we’re a little bit (full) at the defensive line spot, and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got a guy who can play.”
While preseason games don’t count when it comes to regular season success, it is important to note just how effective the Hawks were both at scoring points and preventing them throughout the entire preseason.
Seattle scored 110 points and gave up just 36 points for an average score of 27.5-9. The 110 points were second only to the Baltimore Ravens, who had 119 points scored (and 97 points scored against them), and the 36 points given up were the least surrendered in the entire NFL. The +74 point differential for Seattle was also the top difference in the preseason. The Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers each finished the preseason with a +53.
But even with all the momentum Seattle may have gained during the preseason, it’s important for them to not look past the Carolina Panthers game this week. In what has the makings of a trap game, Seattle needs to remember how dangerous last year’s 7-9 Panthers team was when Seattle was able to escape with a closely contested 16-12 victory.
Outspoken Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy remembers last year’s game well and doesn’t think a close win by Seattle gives the Hawks any advantage this season. “I’m glad they’ve got a buzz, I’m glad they’re feeling good about themselves,” Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy said to the Charlotte Observer. “But if they don’t block, they don’t run, they don’t score — they don’t win. It’s as simple as that.”
It may seem odd that Hardy would mention scoring as a potential issue for Seattle, but Hardy does have a record of backing up his talk. Last season after a 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, Hardy said he still believed his team was the better one. Later in the season his Panthers got the chance to back up his statements as they cruised to a 30-20 victory in the rematch game against Atlanta.
One of the big concerns about Seattle’s Week 1 match-up against the Carolina Panthers is the starting time. Seattle has to travel to Carolina for a 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PDT match-up. Late morning games have typically not been kind to the Hawks, where they are 7-21 since 2008 and 1-3 last season. Fortunately for Seattle, head coach Pete Carroll has been scheduling practices this week at 10 a.m. to get the team ready to play.
As the NFL season begins, no one really knows what to make of the Carolina Panthers. Sports Illustrated, in its season preview, rated Carolina last of all 16 NFC teams. Football Outsiders, meanwhile, wrote that the Panthers are the team that could be the “dark horse that we expect will rise from a losing record to a Super Bowl contender.”
Fitting, then, that if the Panthers are one of the biggest enigmas in the NFL, they are led by one of its largest riddles, third-year quarterback Cam Newton. The former Heisman Trophy winner has put up huge numbers — his 7,920 yards are the most for any quarterback in NFL history in his first two seasons — yet is generally considered to have been a disappointment so far with Carolina going 13-19 during his starts.
Newton, though, also led Carolina to wins in five of its last six games last season, allowing the team to turn a 2-8 disaster into a 7-9 final record that has spurred optimism in Charlotte.
“I know they have a lot of energy about them,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. “They feel really good about where they are going.”
One of the reasons for Carolina’s strong finish last season was that it returned to a power running game, in the process simplifying the playbook for Newton.
Asked about that Wednesday during a conference call with Seattle reporters, Carolina receiver Steve Smith had rather strong words for Rob Chudzinszki, who was the team’s offensive coordinator last season before becoming head coach of the Browns. “I think it was really a power move of the prior offensive coordinator really positioning himself to kind of show: ‘Hey! I’m capable,’" Smith said. “I really believe that he was applying for that head-coaching job. Our offense kind of suffered a little bit because of that. At times we got cute and we did things that weren’t necessarily us.”
Carolina has had trouble winning close games the past two seasons, which some peg on third-year coach Ron Rivera. Carolina has lost 15 times in that span in games it has had a lead, and is 6-13 in contests decided by eight points or less.
One of those come-from-ahead defeats came in Week Five last season when the Seahawks eked out a 16-12 win in Charlotte. The victory was clinched when Newton bounced a pass at the feet of an open receiver in the end zone on fourth down from the 1-yard-line one. It was a play that seemed to encapsulate everything that ailed the Panthers — an iffy play call followed by worse execution.
While each team has changed somewhat in the offseason, for the most part the defensive recipe for Seattle is the same — shut down the run, both by the running backs and by Newton, and make Newton throw the ball.
While seeming to take a back seat in the discussion of mobile young quarterbacks, Newton’s 741 rushing yards last season led the Panthers and was second among quarterbacks to the 815 of Robert Griffin III. Much of that yardage came out of the read zone offense that is becoming increasingly popular throughout the league.
Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, recalling what worked well for the Seahawks’ defense last year, made it clear Wednesday they’d rather see Newton in the pocket throwing than taking off and running around the edge. “I don’t think we let Cam run on us like that,’’ Wagner said. “We let him throw the ball and try to beat us throwing, which I don’t think he can do.’’
Rivera says opponents who think they know what they are getting in Newton might see a different player this year. “He started slow obviously last season,’’ Rivera said. “But once he got to about Week Eight, he really played just about as well as anyone else in the league. … I think, and I’d like to believe, that he’s matured and he’s gotten the things that he needs to have as far as getting us going.’’
The Seattle Seahawks don’t know which Cam Newton will show up Sunday when they take on the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C.
Will it be the quarterback who threw a potential,winning touchdown to tight end Ben Hartsock in the dirt on his way to finishing with a season-low in passing yards (141) and completions (12) in Seattle’s 16-12 win over the Panthers last season?
Or will it be the signal-caller who compiled a 94.7 passer rating in the last nine games, completing 143 out of 240 passes (59.6 percent) for 1,920 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions? Newton also rushed for 441 yards and five touchdowns during the final nine games last season. The Panthers finished 5-4 in those contests, winning five of their last six games to finish 7-9.
Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said he believes his defense can have a repeat performance if the Seahawks make Newton throw instead of allowing him to run. “I don’t think we let Cam run on us like that,” Wagner said. “We’ll let him throw the ball, try to beat us throwing, which I don’t think he can do.”
Newton, at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, was the first overall selection of the 2011 draft and has the athletic ability to take over the game. But questionable decision-making and a lack of maturity have held him back from developing into one of the top quarterbacks.
However, Carolina coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers simplified the offense so Newton could play with more freedom. And it paid off. “We took a lot of things out of our offense,” Rivera said. “We said that we needed to simplify certain things, take some things out of his hands. We need to take some decision-making processes out of his hands at times, and let him just wing it. And he really seemed to play a lot more loose, a lot more natural.”
Rivera also mentioned other players around Newton stepped up, including receiver Brandon LaFell, tight end Greg Olson and running back DeAngelo Williams.
Part of the reason Seattle played Newton so well last season was the team’s ability to make open-field tackles when the athletic quarterback scrambled or ran the option.
“We played that read option well, but last year is last year,” Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner said. “He’s a heck of a football player, and he’s had the whole offseason to try and get better, just like we’re trying to get better. So we’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game, week in and week out. And it starts with Cam Newton.”
Cornerback Richard Sherman said it will be important to keep Newton off balance. “If he gets any kind of momentum, he’s hard to stop,” Sherman said. “So just keeping him uncomfortable, that’s always the plan – we force them to make a decision, and then we have to make a tackle.”
Wagner said that’s not as difficult as it looks. “It’s not hard to tackle Cam Newton,” Wagner said. “The dude is 6-6 and like two (245 pounds) or whatever. He’s a big dude, so you can grab him.”
BOLD STATEMENT: The Panthers will have a better defense than the Seahawks this year. The front line is solid and they have one of the best LB's in the league. The Panthers will get a Seattle team that is going cross country and that end result will be an upset win for the home team.