Five keys for Seattle vs. Carolina

September, 7, 2013
9/07/13
8:00
AM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On paper, Sunday's 1 p.m. game between the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks looks like a mismatch.

Here are five things that will determine if that's the case:
  • Newton vs. Wilson -- Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was the league poster boy going into last season. But after two straight losing seasons that honor has shifted to Seattle's Russell Wilson. For the Panthers to avoid another slow start Newton must steal the spotlight back from his counterpart and show the poise and efficiency that Wilson did in leading Seattle to the playoffs a year ago. The Seahawks say they have to force Newton to beat them with his arm. Newton has to prove that he can.
  • The line of fire -- Carolina left guard Amini Silatolu has been limited the past two weeks with a hamstring injury and is a long shot to play. Carolina appears ready to go with a committee of journeyman Chris Scott, who hasn't started an NFL game, and veteran Travelle Wharton, who hasn't played in a year. How well they do against a tough defensive front could determine the effectiveness of the offense.
  • Double Trouble? -- Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams came up with the nickname "Double Trouble'' for himself and Jonathan Stewart after they combined for 2,351 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns in 2008. But with half (Stewart, ankle, PUP) of trouble out, Williams must cause the Seahawks enough problems that they can't fire off on Newton every play. If they can, Carolina is in double trouble.
  • Secondary, but not really -- Seattle's secondary that features three Pro Bowlers is considered by some as the best in the league. Carolina's secondary that allowed opponents to complete a league-high 66.8 percent of their passes a year ago is a major question mark even though the defense had a league-high 10 interceptions during the preseason. Starting strong safety Mike Mitchell (thigh) remains a question mark. This group has to step up in a big way.
  • Intangibles -- All the pressure, really, is on the Seahawks. They are the team picked by many to go to the Super Bowl. Carolina is the team with tempered expectations and ranked 23rd in ESPN's preseason rankings. A team with nothing to lose and out to prove the critics wrong could be dangerous in front of a home opening crowd.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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