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Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA
When: Saturday, January 11 at 4:35 p.m. ET (FOX)
Which teams: Lowest-seeded NFC Wild Card Round winner at Seattle Seahawks (1)
What to know: Early this season, the Seahawks established a reputation for being invincible at home, but something less than that on the road. Their "Legion of Boom" defense showed up everywhere; they allowed a second-best average of 14.8 points per game through 16 weeks, per Pro Football Reference.
Sometimes, quarterback Russell Wilson and tailback Marshawn Lynch provided just enough punch to escape places like St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome with a win barely intact. Two low-scoring losses to quality divisional rivals in their last five games provide more reason for worry.
That said, the Seahawks had the No. 1 seed all but clinched for most of the season, and when they're on, they're as good as anybody.
Who will win: CenturyLink is a fortress, and the Seahawks were my preseason pick to win it all. Seattle Seahawks over anyone, including my pick of the New Orleans Saints. (Seattle beat New Orleans 34-7 in Week 13.)
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
When: Sunday, January 12 at 1:05 p.m. ET (FOX)
Which teams: Highest-seeded NFC Wild Card Round winner at Carolina Panthers (2)
What to know: In mid-October, the Carolina Panthers were 1-3, head coach Ron Rivera was a dead man walking and a few media folks were even calling for 2011 No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton to be benched.
Since then, the Panthers are an incredible 11-1, Rivera has been christened "Riverboat Ron" for his newly-aggressive fourth-down playcalling and Newton has metamorphosed from an all-stats, no-wins fantasy football monster to a guy who always makes a play when needed.
Newton has four game-winning drives and four fourth-quarter comebacks in 2013, per Pro Football Reference, doubling his prior career total of two. Despite a lack of game-breaking receivers, he and the Panthers' power running game are the perfect complement to the NFL's best scoring defense of the first 16 weeks.
Who will win: The hottest team in football, the Panthers are going to be a very tough out for any team. The Carolina Panthers match up much better against my pick to face them, the Green Bay Packers, than they do the San Francisco 49ers—so if my pick proves right, the Panthers advance. If not, I like San Francisco.