Russell Wilson squares-off against Cam Newton on Sunday afternoon as the Carolina Panthers host the Seattle Seahawks at Bank of America Stadium in Week One of the new NFL season.
Wilson managed to separate himself from the rookie litter last year by picking up a playoff victory, and now he has the Seattle Seahawks as one of the few favorites to reach the Super Bowl. After leading Seattle to an 11-5 record, he toppled Washington in the Wild Card round and nearly knocked off the NFC’s top team in Atlanta.
Now Seattle has arguably the most charismatic quarterback in the NFC, coupled with a dominant young defense led by Richard Sherman and his eight interceptions, and the soon-to-return Chris Clemons who had 11.5 sacks in the regular season, but went down against Washington in the playoffs.
What Wilson pulled off last year is what many expected from Newton, but the 2011 Rookie of the Year showed signs of immaturity and regressed.
Dual-threat Newton completed 57.7 percent of his passes for 3,869 yards and 19 touchdowns, but wasn’t as effective outside the pocket, totaling eight rushing touchdowns compared to the 14 he posted in 2011. Still Newton led Carolina in passing and rushing, and receiver Steve Smith looked like his old self with 73 receptions for 1,174 yards, and tight end Greg Olsen had 69 catches for 843 yards and five scores.
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Linebacker Luke Keuchly emerged as a formidable piece to the Carolina defense, totaling 164 tackles and one sack, while Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson combined for 22.5 of the team’s 39 sacks last season, good for ninth in the NFL.
The Panthers bolstered that solid front by taking two defensive tackles in the first two rounds of this year’s draft in Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. A first-team All-American last year at Utah, Lotulelei just came to terms on a deal with Carolina on Friday.
The game begins at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by FOX or watch a live online stream by purchasing NFL Game Access here.
Betting Odds: Seattle is favored by 3.5 points.
Over/Under: 45 points.
Prediction: Seattle 24, Carolina 20