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Injuries should keep Seahawks' opener close

By Jim Moore

When it comes to predicting who will win an NFL game or cover the spread, I don't have a clue.
Wait a minute, last year I did. It's documented – the Go 2 Guy officially went 15-3 against the spread in Seahawks games in 2012.

If you follow this stuff, you know that 15-3 against the spread is phenomenal. You also know that it can't possibly continue. You'd be right – I plan to go 17-2 this year, picking every Seahawk game through the Super Bowl.

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The Seahawks will have to stop quarterback Cam Newton and Carolina's offense with backups playing in place of some defensive starters. (AP)
It's going to be more difficult. I've already made the blowhard prediction of thinking the Seahawks can go 19-0 this year. So until they lose, I can't pick against them straight up.

The other thing about this year: the Seahawks are national darlings for justifiable reasons. They're loaded with talent and everyone sees it. They also will get every opponent's best shot.

Because of the hype and heightened expectations, the point spread will be inflated against them each week. Generally speaking, the guys in Vegas will say you're more apt to get line value betting against the Seahawks than on them.

The Carolina game is tricky. I looked at Sports Illustrated's NFL preview and saw that the Seahawks are the No. 2-rated team in the NFC, just behind the 49ers. Guess who's No. 16? The Panthers.

But then when you look at other publications and websites, some think that Carolina will be a darkhorse team after winning five of its last six games to finish 7-9 in 2012.

The Seahawks are favored by 3.5 points. First impulse is to think they'll win by at least seven and easily cover the spread. Pete Carroll's team is dramatically improved over the one that eked out a 16-12 victory at Carolina in early October of last year. Russell Wilson should feast on a secondary that allowed a 67-percent completion rate last season. And the Seahawks defense should be equipped enough to limit Cam Newton and the Panthers.

But I'm concerned about the lack of defensive linemen. Projected starting defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel are nicked up. If they're limited, who do they have to stop the run inside?

And who's going to rush Newton? We know that Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin aren't going to play. Plus Cliff Avril might not play. That leaves pass-rushing duties to O'Brien Schofield, Mike Morgan and Benson Mayowa. Good luck with that. It's one thing to get production from that trio in the preseason, but it's a whole different deal in the regular season.

An X-factor that no one's mentioned this week is former 49er Ted Ginn Jr. In the season opener against the Seahawks in 2011, Ginn had two touchdowns on a 102-yard kickoff return and a 55-yard punt return.

Now with the Panthers, Ginn caught eight passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason and also scored on a 74-yard punt return. He will be a factor on Sunday.

I'm looking for a tight game in Charlotte. The Seahawks were 3-5 on the road last year. Aside from blowing out the Bills in Toronto, the other two road wins over the Bears and Panthers were close to the end, and the Chicago game even went overtime.

As good as the Seahawks are at home, remember, too, that Carroll is 10-13-1 against the spread in road games in his three years as head coach.

Adding it all up, I still like the Hawks to win, but Carolina will beat the spread.

Prediction: Seahawks 23, Panthers 21.

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