The divisional round of the 2014 NFL Playoffs continues Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers, last season's NFL representative in the Super Bowl, travel to face the Carolina Panthers. Which team will continue on the road to MetLife Stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII? Read our preview for everything you need to know, and use this as an open thread to discuss Sunday's action.
49ers (13-4) at Panthers (12-4)
Game Time: 1:05 p.m. ET
TV: FOX (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver).
Radio: Westwood One -- Kevin Kugler, James Lofton, Hub Arkush; Sirius -- 88 (WW1), 92 (SF), 86 (Car.). XM: 88 (WW1), 225 (SF), 86 (Car.).
Odds: 49ers -3
Opening the postseason on the road, San Francisco won 23-20 at Green Bay to advance to the Divisional round for the third consecutive season under head coach Jim Harbaugh. Phil Dawson kicked three field goals, including the game-winner as time expired, and Colin Kaepernick passed for 227 yards and rushed for 98.
"It was amazing to get that win," says Kaepernick, who improved to 3-1 in his postseason career. "We came back, fought and played hard."
In the victory at Green Bay, wide receiver Michael Crabtreehad eight catches for 125 yards and Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis had a 28-yard touchdown catch, his sixth postseason TD in six career playoff games.
"They got us the first time," says Pro Bowl linebacker Na Vorro Bowman of the Panthers, who defeated the 49ers 10-9 in Week 10. "What's on our minds is to get them now. It's the playoffs. Win or go home."
The Panthers tied a franchise record with 12 wins and won the division for the fourth time in team history. Carolina had five players selected to the Pro Bowl: DE Greg Hardy, C Ryan Kalil, LB Luke Kuechly, QB Cam Newton, FB Mike Tolbert
"This is going to be a new venture for me and I'm going to try and make the most of it," says Newton, who is making his postseason debut. "You have to play each and every play like it's your last because it may be."
Carolina ranked second in the NFL in points allowed (241), total defense (301.3 yards per game) and rushing defense (86.9). Kuechly and Thomas Davis were the only linebacker teammates to each record at least 120 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions. Hardy, who tied the single-season team record with 15 sacks (Kevin Greene, 1998), is the first player in NFL history to enter the postseason after posting at least three sacks in his team's final two games.
"This is my first time in the playoffs and it's exciting," says Hardy. "I can't wait to see what's next. I want to enjoy it."
Rootability Index: Well, if former Giants count for anything you have to root for Carolina. Chase Blackburn, Domenik Hixon and Dan Connor are with the Panthers. Former Giants pro personnel man Dave Gettleman is the GM. Mario Manningham is a 49er, but it's still four against one. You don't want to root for San Francisco, anyway. Seriously, I know you don't.