The Carolina Panthers aren't playing this Sunday, but they will learn who they'll play next Sunday.
For the first time in the history of the current playoff format adopted in 1990, both NFC Wild Card games are being played on the same day. Football fans will want to watch every minute of every game, but there's a possibility that the Panthers will know their NFC Divisional Playoff opponent after the first game.
If the sixth-seeded Seattle Seahawks knock off the third-seeded Minnesota Vikings in their 1:05 p.m. game (NBC), then the top-seeded Panthers will host Seattle. If the Seahawks lose Sunday, Carolina will host the winner of the 4:40 p.m. game (FOX), between the fourth-seeded Washington Redskins and fifth-seeded Green Bay Packers.
The NFC Divisional Playoff will kick off January 17 at 1:05 p.m. (FOX) at Bank of America Stadium.
Interestingly, the Panthers already have faced all three of their potential opponents this season, winning all three of those matchups. Carolina's dramatic 27-23 triumph at Seattle in Week 6 was one of the team's signature moments. The Panthers built a 37-14 lead against Green Bay in Week 9 before holding on for a 37-29 victory, and Carolina broke out of a 14-14 tie in Week 11 against Washington to roll to a 44-16 victory. The Green Bay and Washington victories both were at home.
SEATTLE AT MINNESOTA (1:05 p.m. NBC)
The teams of late: The Seahawks fell to 2-4 with their last-minute loss to Carolina, but since then the two-time reigning NFC champions are 8-2. The Vikings appeared headed toward a wild card spot when they lost three of four games but recovered to win their last three and take the NFC North crown for the first time since 2009.
How they match up: The Seahawks thoroughly dominated the Vikings 38-7 at Minnesota a month ago to start a late stretch in which they won four games by 17 or more points. The Vikings were dealing with several injuries on defense in that game, however, and recovered nicely by nearly winning in Arizona and then rolling past the Bears, Giants and Packers.
Playoff history with Panthers: Two of Seattle's three Super Bowl teams ended Carolina's season along the way, but both games were in Seattle – in the divisional round two years ago and in the NFC title game following the 2005 regular season. The Panthers couldn't face the Vikings before the NFC title game and have never squared off with Minnesota in the postseason.
GREEN BAY AT WASHINGTON (4:40 p.m., FOX)
The teams of late: The Packers started 6-0 before consecutive losses to the Broncos, Panthers and Lions. They suffered uncharacteristic struggles on offense the rest of the way, winning just four of 10 games after the hot start. The Redskins fell to 4-6 when they lost to Carolina but were still alive in the NFC East race and got hot at the right time, winning five of their final six.
How they match up: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has led the Packers to the playoffs seven consecutive seasons now, while Kirk Cousins will be making his playoff debut. But Cousins has been the hotter quarterback the last few weeks, and Washington has won six of its last seven home games. Interestingly, three of Green Bay's last four victories have been on the road.
Playoff history with Panthers: Carolina lost at Green Bay in the 1997 NFC Championship, and the teams haven't met in the postseason since. Washington is one of just three non-division NFC opponents – along with Minnesota and Detroit – that the Panthers have never faced in the playoffs.