Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 9/6/13
First Look: The Carolina Panthers hit the ground running against a team that some experts say could win it all come February. In a critical year for Ron Rivera and Co., Carolina must get off to a good start: something the team hasn’t done under Rivera in his two years with the team. Why Carolina Might Win: Simply put, the Panthers defense has been on a mission and carried the team during the preseason, even outscoring the offense in some games. The best way to beat the Seahawks on the field is to keep Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch OFF of it. In order to do that, the Panthers D will have to get a big push from the defensive line a.k.a. Monsters Inc. (Greg Hardy’s name, not mine). The Seahawks ranked 27th last season in passing offense. Conversely, they were 3rd on the ground. On top of that, newly acquired Seattle receiver Percy Harvin will miss this game and many others recovering from recent hip surgery. If the Panthers are able to contain Marshawn Lynch, they stand a great chance to pull off the upset. Why Seattle Might Win: The Seahawks defense was arguably the best in the NFL last season. Don’t expect anything to change this season. It’s very hard to look at the Seattle defense and spot a weakness right away. That doesn’t bode well for a Panthers team that is still trying to find it’s identity in year three of the Cam Newton era. Add to the mix that the biggest question mark for Carolina will be their offensive line, and that is cause for worry if you’re a Panthers fan. Seattle will look to keep Newton in the pocket and rely on their strong secondary to get the job done against Steve Smith and the receiving corps. If the Seahawks are able to get their offense clicking early against the inexperienced Panthers secondary, this game could get out of hand quickly. Final Analysis: The last time these two teams met, Seattle won a defensive struggle 16-12. Expect a similar result on Sunday. Both teams have above average defenses and rely on them to get their team going. This will also be Newton’s first game since being named a team captain. The Panthers staff have been preaching all summer that Newton has matured and taken a bigger role in the locker room. All eyes will be on him especially if things go south. Prediction: Seattle 27 Carolina 14  

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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