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Week 1: Seahawks-Panthers matchup analysis

The SportsXchange

Seattle Seahawks (0-0) at Carolina Panthers (0-0)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte - TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Chris Myers, Tim Ryan, Jennifer Hale

*Keys to the game: The Seahawks kept Cam Newton off-balance during a victory in Carolina last season, and the Panthers' quarterback continued to display maddening inconsistency during the preseason. New Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula has talked often about getting back to a strong ground game, but 30-year-old RB DeAngelo Williams will be asked to log a lot of snaps with Jonathan Stewart out and little experience behind him. While Seattle sports a deep roster, the defensive line is a significant concern due to injuries that have sapped the pass rush and could leave the interior exposed against the run. That means the offense must get off to a quick start. While QB Russell Wilson is the rising media star, this is still an offense that very much runs through the ground game. RB Marshawn Lynch leads a deep backfield, and the read option will also be sprinkled in. The Seahawks want to wear defenses down and set Wilson up to attack suspect CBs Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Norman.

*Matchup to watch - Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly: Kuechly is one of the game's fastest-rising young stars on either side of the ball and leads a front seven that stands to be far improved. Lynch saw only token action during the preseason and has fresh legs. The pair could engage in some highlight-worthy contact.

*Player spotlight - Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman: Seattle surprisingly parted ways with former Pro Bowler Michael Robinson during final roster cuts. The inexperienced Coleman gets the call in a critical role as Lynch's lead blocker.

*Fast facts: Lynch had 100-plus rushing yards in eight of the Seahawks' final 10 games last season. ... Newton's 7,920 career passing yards is the most ever by a quarterback through his first two NFL seasons.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Seahawks and Panthers locked horns in a 16-12 Seattle victory at Carolina last October. Both offenses made significant strides down the stretch last season, however, with Seattle's ability to wear out defenses with a power ground game a major asset on the road.

*Our pick: Seahawks 23-20
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