The Seattle Seahawks (12-4) are the NFC’s top seed, earning a bye in the first round. Although they have been peaking, winning six straight games since a 24-20 loss at Kansas City on Nov. 16, they’ll face one of the league’s hottest teams in the Carolina Panthers, who have won five in a row since starting the season 3-8-1.
Just like the Seahawks, Carolina (8-8-1) has been winning with a stingy defense, allowing just under 12 points per game in its last five. Seattle has given up just over six points per contest in its last six games. In the wild-card 27-16 win over Arizona, the Panthers allowed only 78 yards.
“Guys have come together and bought into what we are doing,” Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly said. “We took the first step and it’s an absolutely awesome feeling.”
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has played well during the winning streak. He threw two touchdown passes in the third quarter against the Cardinals.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is 24-2 in his career at home.
“We’re exactly where we want to be,” Wilson said. “Most importantly, we get to play at home again and in front of the best fans in the world.”
Denver (12-4) will host Indianapolis (12-5) in an AFC Divisional game. It’s a rematch from Week 1, when the Broncos beat the Colts 31-24.
Indianapolis defeated Cincinnati 26-10 in the first round.
“We played great team football,” said Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. “We’ve got a tall order playing Denver at Denver, but we’re excited about that and up for the challenge.”
The Broncos are tough at home, going 8-0 this season. Over the past two years, including the playoffs, Denver has won 17 of its last 18 at home.
“We’re excited and looking forward to the postseason,” said Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. “This is why you work so hard all season to get this opportunity.”
The other Divisional round matchups feature Baltimore (11-6) at New England (12-4) in the AFC, and Dallas (13-4) at Green Bay (12-4) in the NFC.
Baltimore has won two of the past three postseason meetings with the Patriots, both on the road. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has seven playoff road wins, the most in league history. New England quarterback Tom Brady has 18 career postseason victories, the most in NFL history.
The last time the Cowboys played at Green Bay in the postseason was in the 1967 NFL championship game, known as the “Ice Bowl,” and won by the Packers 21-17.
This will be the first playoff game in NFL history with a team that went 8-0 on the road (the Cowboys) playing a team that went 8-0 at home (the Packers).
Copyright © 2014 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.