Tale Of The Tape: Seattle Seahawks At Carolina Panthers
- QuarterbackIn the year of the rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson was as good a story as Andrew Luck or RGIII last year. The unheralded and unimpressive looking Wilson simply took his opportunity and ran with it. He is one of the primary reasons the Seahawks are co-favorites (along with the 49ers) to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Excellent athletic ability, accuracy and a strong enough arm are part of his measurables, but his intangibles separate him from nearly everyone else.This is a huge season for Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and quarterback Cam Newton. The Panthers need to become a winning team this year or both could be gone. Newton is a remarkable athlete and a gifted passer, but his mindset and preparation vary from week to week. That has to change this year.
- OffenseThe Seahawks can play old-school, pounding football if they choose because running back Marshawn Lynch can go into “Beast Mode” and pound opposing tacklers. The key to the Seahawks’ running game is their solid offensive line, led by left tackle Russell Okung. The Seahawks have a stretch-the-field receiver in Sidney Rice and Golden Tate is adequate at the position. However, they need Percy Harvin (PUP) to become an impact player when he returns in six weeks.The Panthers have talented players but don’t seem to play consistently from week-to-week. DeAngelo Williams has game-changing ability, but something seems to be missing. Steve Smith is now an older receiver, but don’t question his toughness or his commitment. Brandon LaFell needs to catch more than 44 passes this season.
- DefenseThe Seahawks are probably the best all-around defensive team in the league. While they are more dangerous at home where their crowd causes havoc for opposing offenses, they have the speed up front to ruin opposing offenses. Former Detroit defensive end should make this unit even more dangerous. Cornerback Richard Sherman will give Tampa Bay’s Darrelle Revis a run for his money as the best cover man in the league.The Panthers have a chance to establish themselves as one of the best defensive teams in the league. Second-year linebacker Luke Kuechly is one of the best tacklers on the team while defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy have combined for 23.5 sacks. Free safety Charles Godfrey (69 tackles) is one of the most underrated hitters in the league.
- Special TeamsThe Seahawks can hold their own on special teams. Steven Hauschka missed just three FG attempts last year, while Jon Ryan is one of the best net punters in the league. His mark of 40.8 (net) last season was the best in team history.The Panthers think they are going to get a huge lift on special teams from Ted Ginn, who has explosive speed as a punt returner and a kickoff returner. Brad Nortman has a strong leg as a punter and the Panthers expect a lot from him this season.
The Seahawks expect to pick up from where they left off last year and they want to start the season on a positive note. This could be a difficult assignment for them since they have to travel cross country and they must face a brilliant athlete in Cam Newton. This should be a competitive game, but the Seahawks should find a way to win it. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor