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NFL Preview - Seattle (0-0) at Carolina (0-0)



By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - The Seattle Seahawks are a stylish pick to represent the NFC in this year's Super Bowl and the long and winding road begins Sunday against the host Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

Seattle came close to advancing to last season's conference championship game, losing in the waning seconds at Atlanta in the divisional round. The Seahawks went 11-5 a year ago, the best mark since going 10-6 in 2007, and are pegged to compete with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.

The Seahawks owe a lot of last season's success to quarterback Russell Wilson, who beat out Matt Flynn for the starting job as a rookie. Wilson never relinquished his golden opportunity and because of that the Seahawks have high hopes for 2013. Wilson started all 16 games last season, going 8-0 at home, and passed for 3,118 yards with 26 touchdown passes, tying Peyton Manning's rookie record.

Wilson, who had a 100-plus passer rating in nine games in 2012 and exceeded all expectations, will try not to struggle through the so-called sophomore slump now that opposing defenses will be keying in on last April's third-round draft choice. Head coach Pete Carroll is confident in his signal caller and knows Wilson makes everyone around him that much better.

"Russell is the kind of player that will affect other guys," Carroll said recently. "He affects everybody around him and hopefully that will help everybody play better."

Seattle has reached the playoffs twice in the previous three seasons and was riding a six-game winning streak until falling to the Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Seahawks overcame a 20-0 deficit to make it interesting and the outcome could have been different had Marshawn Lynch been able to find an opening across the offensive line. Lynch is another star for the Seahawks and perhaps gives the team a better chance to win than Wilson.

As difficult as that may be to believe, Lynch has been born again in the Pacific Northwest and Carroll will feed the hard-charging back as much as possible. Lynch has transformed himself into one of the top backs in the league and was third in the NFL last season with a career-high 1,590 rushing yards. Lynch had 100 or more yards rushing in eight of the final 10 games in 2012 and leads the NFL with 2,531 rushing yards since Nov. of 2011.

The Seahawks have lost two straight and three of their last four season openers and are winless in the past three lid-lifters on the road. They haven't won a season opener on the road since Sept. 10, 2006 at Detroit and will start the season away from home for the 10th time in 14 years.

Carolina has missed the playoffs each of the past four years and, like Seattle, is counting on big things in 2013. Quarterback Cam Newton set the bar high this offseason by saying: "The time is now."

Newton said that during a radio interview and touched on how the atmosphere is much different than a year ago. Whether the new attitude serves a purpose in 2013 is unknown, but Newton is saying all the right things.

"We're looking at the small things that can make a big difference. It starts here in practice. We can't hold ourselves accountable to a standard in a game if we don't do it in practice," Newton said. "That's been something of a different vibe in practice. It's been working out for us."

The Panthers enter the new season with a chip on their shoulder and teams should be wary of what they could do. After a lowly 1-6 start a season ago, the team was able to come together and finish strong, going 6-3 the rest of the way with four straight victories to close the season.

Carolina hasn't had a winning season since 2008, when it was 12-4, and finished the 2009 campaign at 8-8. Head coach Ron Rivera was given a pass by owner Jerry Richardson in January, when it was confirmed he will return for a third season. But 2013 could be his last if the Panthers fail to meet requirements. Carolina was 6-10 in Rivera's first season, but the team rallied at the end of 2012 to finish 7-9. The four-game winning streak to end the season gave hope to Rivera.

"We played a lot of young players who gained valuable experience that should help us in the coming season," Rivera said. "There are a lot of positives to take away from last season, but they are only meaningful if we learn from them in 2013."

Carolina has lost four straight season openers.

Sunday's matchup between the Panthers and Seahawks will be the sixth in the regular season. The teams split the first four encounters, then the Seahawks won last season's meeting, 16-12, on Oct. 7 in the Tar Heel State.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:

Newton has been all the rage the past two seasons in which he's amassed 7,920 passing yards. He is the only quarterback with 500-plus rushing yards in each of his first two seasons and shouldn't have to shoulder the ground load with DeAngelo Williams in the backfield.

But Lynch deserves some credit, too, for his transformation in Seattle. How Lynch goes, the Seahawks will go this season. The Panthers and Seahawks have similar dilemmas with athletic QBs and an above average backfield, but Seattle has the edge with Lynch.

Once Lynch gets into "Beast Mode" he's pretty tough to stop. He leads the NFL with 16 100-yard rushing games since 2011 and has hit that mark in 16 of his last 25 games. While Wilson has Sidney Rice and Golden Tate to throw passes to, it may be easier for him to just stick the ball into Lynch's midsection.

Lynch, the third player (Chris Warren, Shaun Alexander) in Seahawks history to rush for 1,500 yards in a season, came within one touchdown of matching his career-high of 13 back in 2011. Lynch has a streak of four straight 100-yard rushing games alive to start the 2013 campaign for the Seahawks, who have compiled 100-plus rushing yards in 21 of the past 25 games. Lynch ran for 85 yards on 21 carries in last year's game against Carolina.

Since Week 9 of 2011, Seattle's 3,791 yards ranks first in the NFL.

The Panthers, though, will counter Lynch and the Seattle offense with second- year stud linebacker Luke Kuechly, who was the NFL's top tackler his rookie season with 164 stops. Kuechly helped turn around Carolina's defense by season's end and earned the praise of his teammates.

"He's done a fantastic job. He just makes plays. He's a young guy who didn't come in entitled. He was real eager to learn. He takes notes," Panthers star wide receiver Steve Smith said. "It doesn't surprise me how much success he's having. I think he hasn't even cracked the surface."

Smith will have an interesting matchup with Seahawks flamboyant and trash- talking cornerback Richard Sherman, who helped contain Carolina's top wideout to the tune of 40 yards on four catches.

Left defensive end Charles Johnson recorded a team-leading and a career-high 12 1/2 sacks last season and is Carolina's top pass rusher. Johnson has posted 33 1/2 sacks over the past three seasons and hopes to contain Wilson and Seattle ground attack.

Seattle's defensive front is nicked up and that will most likely lead to its demise Sunday. Sack leader Chris Clemons will not be 100 percent because of his rehab from anterior cruciate ligament knee surgery in January. Clemons, though, was activated from the PUP list during final roster cuts to avoid missing the first six games.

"To take the next step he needs to start pushing people and all that," Carroll said of Clemons. "He's coming along great, and he's making great progress."

Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane (groin), Tony McDaniel (groin) and rookie Jordan Hill (strained biceps) are all questionable because of injuries, while offseason acquisition Cliff Avril is nursing a hamstring issue.

OVERALL ANALYSIS:

The turf at Bank of America Stadium will need re-surfacing when the Panthers and Seahawks are through Sunday. In a matchup between teams aiming to exceed last season's expectations, it will come down to which defense makes stops and gets off the field often.

Even though Carolina has a chip on its shoulder from last season's late success, the Seahawks are a more polished bunch and losing on opening weekend will be detrimental to their psyche.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Seahawks 21, Panthers 17

09/05 11:24:36 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
ECU 58
FRES 52
Final
CIN 59
NCCU 50
 
12:00pm Today
UNC
BUT
 
2:30pm Today
ECU
HAW
 
5:00pm Tonight
DUKE
FUR
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
POR
 
7:00pm Tonight
NCSU
RICH
 
7:30pm Tonight
FLA
CAR
 
Final
WAS 102
ATL 106
Final
MIA 97
GSW 114
Final
MIL 98
DET 86
Final
NOP 89
SAC 99
Final
DEN 114
CHI 109
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
BRK
 
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
GSW
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
POR
 
7:00pm Tonight
CLE
WAS
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
LAC
 
7:30pm Tonight
DAL
NYK
 
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
TOR
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
MIL
 
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
SAC
 
8:00pm Tonight
OKC
UTA
 
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
IND
 
9:00pm Tonight
PHO
DEN
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
MEM
 
Final
UMO 21
OHIO 24
Final
ECU 58
FRES 52
Final
ELON 74
MRGST 73
 
Final
MIZZ 61
PURD 82
Final
MAR 55
HAW 62
Final
UNF 77
LIB 57
 
Final
CHAM 85
BYU 121
Final
BUCK 58
MDES 55
Final
UGST 85
WCU 70
Final
UWGB 64
EVAN 62
Final
ARST 71
ALA 76
Final
OHIO 69
ARKPB 60
 
Final
UNH 75
BU 68
 
Final
OU 70
CHIST 57
Final
TOL 79
DET 82
Final
CLMB 57
FD 47
 
Final
QUIN 50
HART 54
 
Final
SFLA 71
HOF 70
Final
HARV 84
HOU 63
Final
BONA 79
JST 71
 
Final
STJOE 74
LIU 70
 
Final
SYR 70
GHND 37
 
Final
MLOWELL 102
MTIDA 57
 
Final
CIN 59
NCCU 50
 
Final
VT 54
NIOWA 73
Final
WOFF 82
OHVALLEY 54
 
Final
TEMPL 76
PENN 67
Final
RUTG 50
PETE 68
Final
BGU 62
SEMIZ 54
Final
LAS 73
Terriers 60
 
Final
UVA 79
TENST 36
Final
KENT 92
TXARL 44
Final
FSU 66
CITA 55
Final
PBY 63
TOCC 40
 
Final
COOK 56
TENNM 74
 
Final
WMARY 83
WILL 49
Final
USB 71
WKENT 61
 
Final
HIGH 88
WMPEACE 71
 
Final
SMU 72
ARK 78
Final
ARMY 80
BING 54
 
Final
CSOU 80
CARK 67
 
Final
UMBC 54
HOW 68
 
Final
ARZ 72
KYST 68
Final
OREG 63
VCU 77
Final
PSU 78
AKR 72
Final
SCST 92
CIU 55
 
Final
CREI 75
EILL 53
Final
ALAAM 61
JVST 67
 
Final
ABCHRIST 91
JCHR 65
 
Final
TXSA 57
LOYC 71
Final
NDST 64
MNCROOK 63
 
Final
NEB 80
NEOM 67
Final
VANDY 63
NORST 53
 
Final
STLU 57
NCAT 54
 
Final
MTST 65
NARZ 53
Final
TTU 75
NWST 64
 
Final
TULA 74
SOUTH 59
 
Final
ILLCH 87
STXAVIER 76
 
Final
TEX 78
RFLSH 46
Final
BRAD 52
TAMCC 38
 
Final
SMISS 72
TROY 70
Final
DRAK 73
IUPUI 60
Final
ARKST 58
LAM 63
 
Final
FLGC 62
USF 47
Final
COL 68
AFA 53
Final
IDAHO 75
BSU 86
Final
GRCN 64
BUF 80
 
Final
ORU 52
LALAF 76
Final
CHAR 74
MIAMI 77
Final
ISU 63
MD 72
Final
UMO 46
NW 55
Final
SACST 97
BRISTOL 63
 
Final
MICH 55
VILL 60
Final
SDST 74
PITT 57
Final
USC 53
CSFU 49
Final
STAN 84
DEL 47
12:00pm Today
UNC
BUT
 
12:00pm Today
FRES
MAR
 
12:00pm Today
CHAT
RMU
 
12:00pm Today
EMICH
ROCH
 
1:30pm Today
MRGST
LIB
 
2:00pm Today
HAMP
AMER
 
2:00pm Today
BEL
DEN
 
2:00pm Today
UMASS
NE
 
2:00pm Today
JMU
SHU
 
2:00pm Today
KNST
SAMF
 
2:30pm Today
ECU
HAW
 
2:30pm Today
CHAM
MIZZ
 
2:30pm Today
OKLA
UCLA
 
2:30pm Today
CCAR
LAMON
 
4:00pm Today
ELON
UNF
 
4:00pm Today
UWMIL
ORU
 
4:30pm Today
WCU
CHIST
 
5:00pm Tonight
DUKE
FUR
 
5:00pm Tonight
BYU
PURD
 
6:00pm Tonight
EVAN
USF
 
7:00pm Tonight
COL
GTDNS
 
7:00pm Tonight
VERM
BRY
 
7:00pm Tonight
OSU
CAMP
 
7:00pm Tonight
CORN
CAN
 
7:00pm Tonight
LOU
CLST
 
7:00pm Tonight
UCF
DAVID
 
7:00pm Tonight
IONA
DELST
 
7:00pm Tonight
OU
UGST
 
7:00pm Tonight
TOWS
GOUCHER
 
7:00pm Tonight
ND
GRAM
 
7:00pm Tonight
YALE
LAF
 
7:00pm Tonight
GWU
LONG
 
7:00pm Tonight
VT
UMO
 
7:00pm Tonight
WAKE
MNTER
 
7:00pm Tonight
NAVY
PSUHARRIS
 
7:00pm Tonight
NCSU
RICH
 
7:00pm Tonight
MINN
STJ
 
7:00pm Tonight
JVU
TRINBAPT
 
7:00pm Tonight
YOUNG
UMKC
 
7:00pm Tonight
UAB
WISC
 
7:30pm Tonight
PITT
KYST
 
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WVU
VMI
 
8:00pm Tonight
DEP
LEH
 
8:00pm Tonight
UNT
MVSU
 
8:00pm Tonight
MARS
MORE
 
8:00pm Tonight
TCU
RAD
 
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SELA
TENT
 
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SMU
TXSOU
 
8:00pm Tonight
UTAH
TXPA
 
8:00pm Tonight
LMU
UCR
 
8:00pm Tonight
SCAR
UNCA
 
8:00pm Tonight
SD
WAYNEST
 
8:30pm Tonight
UWGB
FLGC
 
8:30pm Tonight
IOWA
NILL
 
9:00pm Tonight
ORST
AUB
 
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MONT
CARROLLMT
 
9:00pm Tonight
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EKENT
 
9:00pm Tonight
NMST
FAM
 
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WYO
STET
 
9:05pm Tonight
EWASH
NKENTUCKY
 
9:05pm Tonight
IDST
WLVRN
 
9:30pm Tonight
GEOR
UF
 
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GONZ
UGA
 
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NIOWA
NW
 
10:00pm Tonight
SDST
ARZ
 
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CAL
CPSL
 
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UCD
UTST
 
10:30pm Tonight
NDAK
ALAST
 
11:00pm Tonight
CSNO
PORST
 
11:30pm Tonight
AKAN
PAC
 
11:30pm Tonight
OKST
TULSA
 
Final
CLB 2
WIN 4
Final
NAS 4
LOS 3
Final
STL 2
OTT 3
Final
DAL 3
EDM 2
Final
ARI 3
COL 4
Final
ANA 3
CAL 2
Final
VAN 2
NJD 0
7:00pm Tonight
NYI
WAS
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
WIN
 
7:30pm Tonight
FLA
CAR
 
7:30pm Tonight
TAM
NYR
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
PHI
 
7:30pm Tonight
PIT
TOR
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
LOS
 
9:00pm Tonight
COL
CHI
 
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
CAL