Well, football fans, the NFL season is finally back. Tonight the Denver Broncos will square-off against the Baltimore Ravens and initiate a 2013 NFL season we have all been looking forward to for over eight months.
While fans of the Seattle Seahawks will have to wait until Sunday to see their team take the field against the Carolina Panthers, there is no lack of anticipation in the Emerald City.
Coming off a season that saw the Hawks become one of the hottest teams in the league, many are expecting Seattle to contend for a Super Bowl. But as we all know, they have quite the long road to embark upon before even being considered a contender.
The journey to the next Super Bowl for the Seahawks begins on Sunday against the Panthers, and it’s tough to gauge who really has the advantage in this game. Undoubtedly Seattle has more talent, but Carolina will be playing at home and will have the added benefit of an early start time that hasn’t been friendly to the Seahawks in recent years.
Compounded on top of that is the fact that Seattle’s defensive line is a bit banged up and may not yet be in top form.
The Hawks are still a favorite to win this one, but it could be closer than many expect.
Here are a few things that could send Seattle home with an 0-1 record and a bad taste in their mouth.
Cam Newton and the Defensive Line
It’s no secret that Seattle’s big weakness this coming season is its defensive line. Though the roster is riddled with talented and standout players like Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril, rookie Jordan Hill and Michael Bennett, Seattle’s defensive front will be depleted against Carolina.
All the aforementioned players will be out against the Panthers save for Bennett, as Clemons and Avril are coming back from injuries while Irvin is suspended for the first four games.
Now, this doesn’t look all that bad.
Bryant and Mebane are proven commodities who can absolutely disrupt any rushing attack while putting pressure on the backfield.
McDaniel still has to prove himself but looked to be in top form against the Green Bay Packers as he showcased an ability to swat passes and put pressure in the backfield from the three-technique position.
The biggest concern for Seattle’s defensive line will come from the side opposite of Bryant, where Schofield and Mayowa will be responsible for containing the dual-threat attack of Carolina.
While Schofield is entering his fourth season, he really has yet to prove he can be an impact player and is sometimes considered more of a linebacker than a true hybrid LB/DE.
Mayowa, on the other hand, was apparently extremely impressive in camp but is just a rookie and has a long way to go before being considered an impact player as well.
Considering that these two will be facing Cam Newton, the Panthers may find it useful to attack their side of the field and expose their lack of true standout play.
Hand-in-hand with some issues along the defensive line goes the aforementioned Cam Newton. A stellar player and epitome of a dual-threat, Newton has all the tools to be one of the top-5 quarterbacks in the league.
He’s an above average passer and one of the best scrambling quarterbacks the league has seen. He should be able to buy plenty of time against Seattle’s depleted defensive front and that doesn’t bode well for the Seahawks.
If this occurs, expect the game to be a lot tighter than most fans would expect.
Early Start Time
This point has been hammered home a lot in the past few years so I won’t dwell on it for too long, but a road contest coupled with an early start time does not bode well for the Seahawks. Though they did improve their energy level last year on the road, they still seem to struggle waking up for these East Coast trips that see them slated for a 10 AM PT kickoff.
If they aren’t able to get going in the first half on both offense and defense, Seattle could very well come away with a loss in week one.
Let’s hope the Hawks get plenty of rest on Saturday night and find a way to contain Cam Newton with a depleted defensive line.