Good morning. The weather forecast for game time here in Charlotte calls for 88 degrees and sunny this afternoon, so hopefully the Seahawks are hydrated and ready to go.
With that, here are five keys for Seattle as they try to get a win against Carolina. The Seahawks are 3-6 in road season openers since 2000.
Win the turnover battle: This was Seattle’s strength last season. Seattle finished No. 6 in the NFL in sudden change situations in 2012 with a plus-13 turnover differential. The Seahawks forced 20 turnovers and only turned it over five times in the last eight regular-season games, so it’s no surprise Seattle won 7 of 8 down the stretch. Last year at Carolina, the Seahawks actually lost the turnover battle 3-2, but still won the game. That will not happen today.
Put pressure on Cam: The Seahawks sacked Cam Newton four times last year, one of the reasons they held Carolina’s offense to 190 total yards. Seattle likely will be playing without Bruce Irvin, Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril, so who’s going to pressure the passer. Watch for Michael Bennett. He’s been playing like a beast in practice, and I think he’ll create pressure up the middle for Seattle today. Along with that, the Seahawks need O’Brien Schofield, Mike Morgan and Benson Mayowa to bring pressure off the edge.
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Feed the Beast: This is one of the five keys every week, but even more important for Seattle when on the road. Because when this team runs the ball well, they control the tempo of the game. Lynch ran 21 times for 85 yards at Carolina last season. I think he needs to top 100 yards for Seattle to win today, and that will not be easy against an improved Panthers defensive front.
Dial up explosive plays: When you’re on the road, you have to take some shots in order to make it easier to put some points on the board. Expect to see that from Seattle. And I like Stephen Williams getting a couple chances deep, based on what he accomplished this preseason. With Carolina’s small corners, look for Seattle to go to Williams on a couple deep go routes.
Win on third down: On defense Seattle has to get off the field on the money down, and on offense the Seahawks have to stay in front of the sticks. That means no head-scratching penalties like this team had during preseason games. If Seattle can keep the third downs manageable on offense and get off the field on third down on defense, the Hawks have a chance to escape with a win here in Carolina.
Here’s my advance for today’s game. With several options at his disposal, Russell Wilson’s focused on getting the ball to the open man.
Dave Boling of The News Tribune predicts that Russell Wilson will complete 70 percent of his passes today. He also predicts a 12-4 record and Seattle reaching the Super Bowl.
Jim Moore of 710 ESPN Seattle likes the Seahawks 23-21.
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com gives us four matchups to watch in today’s game.
Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times writes that the journey begins for the Seahawks.