The Seahawks are the least-likely lower seed to be intimidated on the road, with the swagger built by those consecutive Super Bowl appearances, that wealth of Pro Bowl players discovered later in the draft and the momentum this season they rode to an 8-2 finish. Then there's that last-minute loss to New England in the Super Bowl last season they've been determined to move past.
The last game the Seahawks lost before they started to hit their stride in late October was, interestingly, at home against the Panthers, when they squandered leads of 20-7 in the third quarter and 23-14 in the fourth quarter in a 27-23 defeat. Russell Wilson was sacked four times that day by a defense that ranked sixth in the league and first in the NFC with 44 sacks this season, but the protection down the stretch was much better as Wilson flourished with the best passing performances of his stellar career.
The ground game is a bit of a mystery, with Marshawn Lynch concluding he wasn't ready to return this week from the abdominal injury that has kept him out since mid-November and Christine Michael managing a mere 70 yards on 21 attempts at Minnesota when the Seahawks needed more in conditions that made throwing downfield difficult if not unwise.
The Panthers ought to be prepared to handle this, with their defense that forced an NFL-leading 39 turnovers and placed sixth in both yards and points allowed. They lost to the Seahawks in the divisional round last year, too, but that team needed four straight wins to finish the regular season 7-8-1.
This team strutted its way to a 15-1 record, ruffling some feelings by their opponents along the way while scoring a league-most 500 points. Cam Newton made a strong case for the NFL MVP award, totaling 45 touchdowns and adding some flamboyant end zone dances.