NFC Divisional Round: Seattle Seahawks (11-6) at Carolina Panthers (15-1) preview and prediction.

Yesterday’s divisional games were incredible. Today’s slate kicks off with the “Bandwagon Bowl,” between the defending two-time NFC champion Seattle Seahawks and the 15-1 Carolina Panthers, today at noon Central Time on FOX.

Like the Cardinals/Packers game from last night, we’ve seen this game this year.  The Panthers trailed by multiple possessions at Seattle earlier this season, and pulled off a 27-23 comeback win.

Last year, the Seahawks played their first playoff game against a Panthers squad that was 7-8-1 in the regular season, and we’re expected to dominate. However, it was a 14-10 game going into the 4th quarter. The score was 24-10 late in favor of the Seahawks, before Cam Newton threw a horrible interception that was returned by Kam Chancellor for a 100-yard touchdown, in a game the Seahawks won 31-17.

Today, both teams enter on a roll, but the Seahawks didn’t look the same in Minnesota as they did the previous seven weeks, when Russell Wilson threw 24 touchdowns, Doug Baldwin emerged as a potential star receiver, and the Seahawks looked in prime form.

Many believe the Seahawks got lucky. I thought they were the better team last week, and left a lot of points on the board. Still, they’re playing a team that’s much better than the Vikings, so if they let MVP candidate Cam Newton (45 total touchdowns) have enough opportunities, he’ll carve through the Seahawks defense.

The Panthers have a great defense as well, due to star linebackers Thomas Davis and Like Kuechly, and shutdown corner back Josh Norman.

The Seahawks, lucky or not, will get star running back Marshawn Lynch back after a couple months, making their offense much more balanced. Russell Wilson is still playing at a high level, and Doug Baldwin is still a high-level receiver. Add in rookie firecracker Tyler Lockett, and the Seahawks can be a prime threat to win this game.

That said, Panthers went 15-1 this year. If they lose this game it will be all for naught. Cam Newton may be the MVP, but if they lose, it will feel like a hollow award.

My head tells me the Seahawks are too playoff-ready to lose, but if they play like they did last week, even though the Panthers don’t have many weapons on offense, they’ll mow down the Seahawks.

Head pick: Seahawks 28-24. Gut Pick: Panthers 27-21


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