This Sunday, the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks will collide in Charlotte in the second of two NFC Divisional Playoff games this weekend. These two teams faced each other in Week 6, which the Panthers won, 27-23, during the middle of their 14-0 start to the season. During that Week 6 contest, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton threw a touchdown to tight end Greg Olsen with 32 seconds remaining to seal the victory. It was the second of two touchdowns the Panthers scored in the final four minutes of the game. During that fateful fourth quarter, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was pressured on 73 percent of his drop-backs. Coming into the game, Wilson had been pressured on an NFL-worst 38 percent of drop-backs. This is the third time these two franchises will go up against each other in the postseason. Seattle has won both previous match-ups in the playoffs, including an NFC Divisional clash last year, 31-17.
Last week, the Seahawks were able to defeat the Minnesota Vikings, 10-9, in frigid temperatures. Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal with less than 30 seconds remaining that would allow Seattle to escape with a trip to the NFC Divisional round. The Seahawks scored all 10 of their points in the fourth quarter, highlighted by a wild play in which Wilson recovered the ball on a bad snap, then flung the ball to rookie receiver Tyler Lockett in the middle of the field. Lockett then raced all the way to the Minnesota 4-yard line, which set up a touchdown reception by Doug Baldwin. Kicker Steven Hauschka then booted a 46-yard field goal attempt between the uprights to give Seattle the lead for good. Running back Marshawn Lynch, better known for his nickname, "Beast Mode," is expected to play this weekend after being sidelined for the past two months due to an abdominal injury, which required surgery.
On the other side, the Panthers clinched home-field advantage for the first time in franchise history after winning a club-record 15 games during the regular season. It is also the third consecutive season that Carolina has won the NFC South, which the team has won six times. The Panthers had 10 players selected to the Pro Bowl. The team scored a franchise-record 500 points this year, which led the NFL. Quarterback Cam Newton, arguably the frontrunner for the MVP award, is the only player in NFL history to throw at least 30 touchdowns and rush for at least 10 touchdowns in a single season. On defense, the Panthers are led by middle linebacker and tackling extraordinaire Luke Kuechly, who has the most tackles in the NFL since 2012, with 591. The secondary, led by cornerback Josh Norman and safety Kurt Coleman, helped the Panthers tie for the NFL lead with most interceptions returned for touchdowns.