The Panthers won their first playoff game in nine years after getting into the postseason at 7-8-1. Now if they want to get their second win, they’ll have to do it against the defending Super Bowl champs.
Carolina will travel to Seattle for the NFC divisional round game after third-seeded Dallas beat the sixth-seeded Lions 24-20 on Sunday evening. The game will be played at 8:15 p.m. Eastern and broadcast locally and nationally on Fox.
The Panthers are keenly familiar with the Seahawks. Carolina has hosted Seattle in each of the past three seasons, including a 13-9 loss in Week 8 this season.
“They are the Super Bowl champions and have been playing their best football late in the season,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Sunday night. “They have a great home field advantage, but nothing comes easy at this stage of the playoffs. We will not be able to make some of the mistakes we made last week.”
Here are 10 things to know about Seattle going into this weekend’s game:
1 Previous meetings: The Seahawks have won the past three games at Carolina since 2012. A 16-12 win in 2012 and a 12-7 victory in 2013 combine with this season’s win to give the Seahawks a victory margin of 13 points against the Panthers.
Carolina didn’t score a touchdown in their 2012 meeting, fumbled inside the 10 with 5 minutes, 25 seconds left in the 2013 game and allowed a touchdown in the final minute of this year’s game for the loss.
“We have played enough in the past that we are going to have a feel for them and they are going to have a feel for us,” Rivera said in his statement. “Our personnel is somewhat different, but I don’t think it will impact the preparation.”
Those games had three things in common: they were defensive battles, Cam Newton didn’t play well in any of them and they were all in Charlotte.
2 Seattle at home: The Seahawks are a remarkable 24-2 at home the past three seasons.
CenturyLink Field is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL because of Seattle’s 12th Man, the collective name for their fans. At one point, CenturyLink Field held the Guinness World Record for the loudest stadium in the world.
3 Yellow flags: The Seahawks led the league with 130 flags thrown against them this season. Only three times this season did Seattle finish with fewer penalties than its opponent, and those games all came at home.
4 Stingy defense: For the second consecutive year, the Seahawks finished with the top defense in the NFL. Opponents passed for just 185.6 yards per game while rushing for 81.5 yards.
The defense has played even better in the last third of the season. Since the Seahawks lost 24-20 to Kansas City in Week 11, they’ve allowed only one team (Philadelphia) to score more than seven points.
Teams have scored 3, 3, 14, 7, 6 and 6 points in the past six games against the Seahawks. In those games, Seattle has allowed 202 yards per game.
5 Russell Wilson everything: The former N.C. State star has proven you can win with a dual-threat quarterback.
What makes Wilson so dangerous is even when he’s scrambling toward the line of scrimmage, he’s still looking to pass. Wilson doesn’t sell out on running the ball until he has to, and that makes his run-pass threat even better.
Wilson has completed 63 percent of his passes this season and has thrown 20 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Perhaps most remarkable is that of those seven picks, he threw only one in Seattle’s four losses.
6 Inside All-Pro: This Saturday’s match will have the two first-team All-Pro inside linebackers from this season. Luke Kuechly and Seattle’s Bobby Wagner will control the middle of the second level of their team’s defenses. Wagner finished with 38 tackles in the month of December, helping him earn the NFC defensive player of the month award.
7 Opportunity knocks: Seattle scored 85 points this season on takeaways and allowed a league-low 38 points by opponents when they forced Seahawks turnovers.
The net 47 turnover points ranked fourth in the league this year. Carolina’s net of 9 points was 13th.
8 Beast Mode: For all the talk about running back Marshawn Lynch not talking to the media, there’s plenty to discuss about what he does on the field.
When Lynch goes into “Beast Mode” – one of his nicknames – watch out. Lynch rushed for 1,306 yards this season, and for the sixth time in nine seasons he reached the 1,000-yard plateau.
He rushed for a career-high 13 touchdowns this season, and he’s lost just one fumble in the past two years. Seattle will feed him against the Panthers. Lynch rushed 52 times in the three games against Carolina.
9 Distracted?: Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is one of the hottest names on the coaching circuit. With six NFL teams in need of a head coach, Quinn has reportedly interviewed with the Jets, Bears, Falcons and Bills. Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell also interviewed for head jobs.
10 Mutual respect: After rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin caught four passes for 94 yards against Seattle this year, All Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said Benjamin would be a good pro in the NFL.
Sherman is widely considered one of the top two cornerbacks in the league, but he couldn’t stop Benjamin from having a big day against him. Benjamin caught a 51-yard pass in double coverage against Sherman and fellow All-Pro safety Earl Thomas.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton showed he’s not afraid to throw Sherman’s way like other quarterbacks in the league.