The Carolina Panthers open up the 2013 season at home against the upstart Seattle Seahawks. The two teams met at Bank of America Stadium last year, with Pete Carroll's team narrowly escaping with a 16-12 victory.
Wilson has also shown tremendous improvement since his first meeting with the Panthers. It's likely the Carolina defense will see a better Seahawks' offense than the unit they held to just 16 points last season.
However, the home opener against the Seahawks is, without question, a winnable game.
Is it a must-win game?
In Week 2, the Panthers travel to Buffalo to take on Doug Marrone's Bills, who will either have Kevin Kolb or rookie EJ Manuel under center.
With a healthy Jon Beason returning to the lineup and a stouter front line, the defense should be able to slow down the Buffalo attack. Ron Rivera's team must take care of business on the road in Week 2.
Week 3 presents another opportunity for revenge – against the New York Giants. The Panthers welcome Tom Coughlin's team to Bank of America Stadium for the second straight year. Last season, the Giants dismantled the Panthers 36-7 – on national television, no less – in the team's most lopsided loss of the 2012 campaign.
Is this a must win game?
If the Panthers lose to both Seattle and New York, they will have started the 2013 season just like the ’11 and ’12 seasons – with one win against a "bad" team and two losses against premier opponents.
To boot, the Panthers follow the Giants with the Cardinals, Vikings and Rams – all very winnable games. As we have witnessed over the last two seasons in Carolina, winning – and losing – is contagious.
If the Panthers drop two of the first three games, you'll have a much less confident team heading into a crucial stretch against Minnesota, St. Louis and Arizona. A team lacking confidence is more likely to drop games against inferior opponents.
In two seasons, the Ron Rivera/Cam Newton regime has been marred by slow starts, some of which has been overshadowed by fast finishes. In reality, the Panthers' late-season winning streaks are meaningless, as they happen only after the team has played itself out of playoff contention.
If the Panthers begin this season like they did the past two, it would be foolish to expect a different result.
However, early matchups against the Seahawks and Giants present opportunities to avenge losses from last season, make statements against playoff-caliber teams right off the bat, and, most importantly, build confidence prior to a three-game stretch against teams the Panthers outmatch in talent.
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