Power Rankings: Week 1 ugly for Carolina?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Based on ESPN's fresh-off-the press Power Rankings the Carolina Panthers need not show up for Sunday's opener against Seattle.

Twenty-third versus No. 1 spells major mismatch, right?

Stay tuned.

As for the Power Rankings, 23rd is close to where the Panthers should be based on last season's 7-9 record, the loss of running back Jonathan Stewart (PUP, ankle) for at least five games, a questionable offensive line and a young secondary.

Quarterback Cam Newton's leadership keeps coming into question, too.

But there's one thing that should keep them competitive against the Seahawks and others this season -- defense.

Last year's unit that was ranked 10th overall should be even better with the return of Jon Beason at linebacker and the addition of first-round pick Star Lotulelei to a strong defensive front. They should put above-average pressure on Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.

By the way, I believe Wilson is the most likely of last year's star-studded rookie quarterback class to experience a sophomore slump. I don't even have Seattle winning the NFC West. That goes to San Francisco, ranked third in the Power Rankings.

Regardless, the Seahawks are loaded and the Panthers are full of question marks.

Seattle won this matchup 16-12 a year ago in Week 5 of a dreadful 1-6 start for the Panthers. This could be a similar type game, unless you based it on the Power Rankings.

That means it'll be a blowout.