The Seahawks play the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday morning to kick off their much-anticipated 2013 season.
KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the season might not start off with a bang, but could end with one.
A number of media outlets, including Sports Illustrated, are predicting the Seahawks will make it to the playoffs this season, and perhaps even the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks were 4-0 in preseason, and Art Thiel agrees they have a very strong team.
"If they're healthy, they're going to be a very formidable team this year," he said.
Art says injuries are already a concern heading into Sunday's season opener. Injured defensive tackles Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane, and defensive end Cliff Avril only had limited practice time this week. Update: Coach Pete Carroll said Friday McDaniel and Mebane will be ready to go Sunday.
Defensive Chris Clemons, who had knee surgery during the offseason, is slowly coming back, but won't play Sunday. His backup, Bruce Irvin, is serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
"It's really kind of a skeletal crew, and it is looking a little vulnerable on the defensive line," Art said.
Cam Newton: 'Formidable Force"
Art calls Panthers' starting quarterback Cam Newton Russell Wilson's equal; he can run as well as he can pass.
"I think he's really going to be a formidable force in the game," Art said.
Some Don't Like It Hot - Or Early
The humidity may be a factor in the game. It's expected to be 85 to 90 degrees and quite sticky in Charlotte on Sunday. Art says the humidity, coupled with the long flight to the East Coast with an early start time, could cause the Seahawks to struggle.
"They're only three-point favorites. They've got a lot of obstacles to overcome," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised—and I don't think I'd be disappointed—if they lost the first game."
Coach Carroll says he's had the team practice at 10 a.m. this week to be ready for the early start.
Despite his pessimism about Sunday's game, Art is optimistic about the Seahawks' season.
"I do see this team probably going 11-5 or 12-4, beating San Francisco and being a force in the playoffs. And yes, I think they'll make the Super Bowl," he said.