With less than 24 hours to the Seahawks season anticipation is at a fever pitch. There must be hundreds and hundreds of Week One previews floating around out there. That being said, it never hurts to add one more to the mix. In this case I’m reviving my weekly column from last year, “Matchups of the Game” where I will examine three of the most important one-on-one matchups in this game. Football games are often won and lost based on single players consistently beating the man across from them or getting beaten. Today we look at three of the matchups most likely to decide Seattle’s fate in Carolina tomorrow.
Matchup #1: Breno Giacomini vs. Charles Johnson
The Panthers are one of the few teams that put their best pass rusher on the left side as opposed to the blind side. Not that there is a bad pass rusher between Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. The reason this is an issue for the Seahawks is that there is a massive gap in quality between their tackles. Okung can normally be relied on to erase the blind side rusher but Giacomini is a below average pass blocking tackle (and the NFL’s 12th worst tackle overall according to Pro Football Focus) who is over matched facing a guy like Johnson who has 33 sacks in the last three years. Giacomini will likely have help throughout the game from Zach Miller or a chipping running back but he will still need to hold his own against a superior opponent. This matchup makes me very nervous.
Matchup #2: Derrick Coleman vs. Luke Kuechly
The Seahawks had one of the most dominant rushing offenses in football last year but they face a stiff challenge in Carolina’s very solid front seven. Luke Kuechly came in last year and became one of the best run stuffers in the game immediately. In order to prevent Kuechly from getting to Lynch around the line of scrimmage they will need to get a hit on him every play. As the new starting fullback, that will often be Coleman’s job. Coleman has big shoes to fill with Michael Robinson departing but he has excellent speed for the position (4.5 40 time) at a respectable 233 pounds. Coleman’s athleticism is not in question but his track record is limited and today will be quite the test. This is one to watch all day long as the Seahawks will see whether releasing Robinson to save money was the right decision.
Matchup #3: Brandon Mebane vs. Ryan Kalil/Amini Silatolu
The Seahawks only have four defensive tackles on the roster, of those three are on the injury report. Jordan Hill is definitely unavailable and D’Anthony Smith has been on the team less than a week. That puts a lot of pressure on Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel. Of those two, Mebane is clearly the greater talent and the tackle that will probably attract the most double teams inside. With the Seahawks top three outside pass rushers (Irvin, Clemons and Avril) likely out for this game (Avril still might play, but it seems unlikely) it would be great to get a little bit of a push from the inside. Mebane is the best candidate to do that (except on the most obvious passing downs where Michael Bennett can slide in) but he will likely get a heavy dose of thee time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil. Mebane will definitely get enough snaps to make a big impact but it’s no sure thing that he will.
I think a lot of Seahawks fans are assuming that this will be a cake walk for their team but it’s a tough journey to Carolina to face a squad that is better than most people think. I’m still predicting a Seahawks win, but not a big one. I think these three matchups will play a big role in the result.