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Why the Seattle Seahawks can beat the Carolina Panthers

Three reasons the Seattle Seahawks can beat the Carolina Panthers in Sunday's NFC divisional-round playoff game at Bank of America Stadium (1:05 p.m. ET, Fox):

1. They outplayed Carolina for three quarters in the first meeting: With 11:46 left in their Week 6 matchup, the Seahawks had a 23-14 lead. They had kept Cam Newton in check up to that point but then failed to finish down the stretch, giving up three drives of 80 yards in the fourth quarter. There's no doubt that the Panthers deserved to win that game, but the Seahawks showed that they can compete with Carolina. Seattle's offense was inconsistent in the first half of the season but averaged 31.25 points per game in the second half. The performance against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday was not pretty, but the weather was clearly a factor. That is unlikely to be the case next Sunday in Carolina.

2. The Seahawks' defense has been stingy: In their past six road games, the defense has allowed a total of one touchdown. Against the Vikings, they held Adrian Peterson to 45 yards on 23 carries. Defensive end Michael Bennett was a disruptive force versus Minnesota, and the Seahawks will go into next week with health on their side. Barring surprising injury news this week, they should go into Sunday's game against the Panthers with all 11 starters in uniform. Finishing was a problem the first time they met the Panthers, but the Seahawks' defense has improved, having finished first in the NFL in points allowed for the fourth straight season.

3. Russell Wilson: It was a struggle for much of the game against Minnesota. He completed just 13 of 26 passes for 142 yards, a touchdown and an interception. But Wilson put together his best season as a pro in 2015. He led the NFL in passer rating and threw 24 touchdowns against one interception in the final seven games of the regular season. The offense had a hiccup in Week 16 against the St. Louis Rams but then came out the next week against the Arizona Cardinals and torched the NFC West champs. Wilson was 18-of-30 for 241 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting against the Panthers. The Seahawks have held a lead at some point in the fourth quarter in 16 of their 17 games this season. Wilson always gives them a chance.