Sports Illustrated's Don Banks makes his prediction for the division round match-up between the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers.


Seattle Seahawks (11-6) at Carolina Panthers (15-1)

Carolina and Seattle will meet in the postseason for the third time. The Seahawks have won both meetings, including last year's Divisional Playoff 31-17 in Seattle. The teams met earlier this season in Week 6 and the Panthers scored two late touchdowns to pull out a 27-23 come-from-behind victory.

The Seahawks improved to 6-1 in the postseason over the past three seasons under head coach PETE CARROLL with a 10-9 win at Minnesota last week. Seattle, which is the second team in NFL history to lead the league in fewest points allowed in four consecutive seasons (Cleveland, 1953-57), has won six consecutive road games and allowed just one offensive touchdown.

"We realize we've got to do this on the road and if we want to do something really special, it's going to take an incredible run here," says Carroll. "So we're just getting ready for Carolina and we're going to do everything we can to see if we can slow them down and find a way to move the football against a great football team. We're going to have to play great football."

The Panthers had a franchise-record 15 wins and posted the best record in the NFL (15-1). Carolina won the NFC South division title for the third consecutive season under head coach RON RIVERA. The Panthers had an NFL-best 10 players selected to the Pro Bowl: linebacker THOMAS DAVIS (first), center RYAN KALIL (fifth), linebacker LUKE KUECHLY (third), quarterback CAM NEWTON (third), cornerback JOSH NORMAN (first), tight end GREG OLSEN (second), defensive tackle KAWANN SHORT (first), running back JONATHAN STEWART (first), fullback MIKE TOLBERT (second) & guard TRAI TURNER (first).

Newton is the only player in NFL history with at least 30 passing touchdowns (35) and 10 rushing touchdowns (10) in a season. He passed for 3,837 yards and rushed for 636 yards, becoming the first player in league history to have at least 3,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards in five seasons.

"Our guys feel that we have a lot to prove," says Rivera, "and I agree. It's exciting to see us playing well and it's great to see the guys enjoying it. It's great to see the guys with their confidence."

Good news, Panthers fans: The top two seeds have pretty much had their way with things in the NFL's divisional round. Each year from 2011 to 2014, three of the four No. 1 and No. 2 seeds have won their playoff openers and advanced to the conference title games. But the exceptions to that trend might give pause to folks in Carolina, whose Panthers enter this weekend as the top seed in the NFC.


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