Friday Round-Up: NFC Wild-Card Round Picks & Predictions

A morning link round-up of what's "out there" about your Seattle Seahawks

Good morning, 12s.

Here's a look at what's "out there" for today - Blue Friday, Jan. 2 - about your Seattle Seahawks:

The Picks Are In

As the conference's No. 1 seed, the Seahawks receive wild-card weekend off. That means they'll host the lowest-seeded winner to emerge from the playoff's first round, when the No. 4-seeded Carolina Panthers take on the No. 5-seeded Arizona Cardinals and the No. 3-seeded Dallas Cowboys matchup with the No. 6-seeded Detroit Lions.

The Panthers, Cardinals, or Lions could potentially come to Seattle's CenturyLink Field on Saturday, Jan. 10 should they advance. If the Cowboys win, they would travel to Green Bay for a meeting with the No. 2-seeded Packers.

With those scenarios in mind, the Seahawks won't know which team they'll meet in the divisional-round until the conclusion of Sunday's games. So here's a look at what NFL experts are saying about this weekend's matchups in the NFC:

Saturday, Jan. 3 - Cardinals at Panthers, 1:35 p.m. PT, Bank of America Stadium, ESPN

With third-stringer Ryan Lindley slated to get the start at quarterback for the Cardinals, Elliot Harrison at NFL.com likes Carolina over Arizona24-17"Drew Stanton cannot go, which means we have to go with Carolina. The Panthers' defense -- as stated in this week's Power Rankings -- has been outstanding over the last four games. The Cardinals have displayed incredible character thus far this season, but with Ryan Lindley at quarterback for Arizona and this game taking place in Charlotte, the mountain might be too tall to climb this time. Yes, Arizona is 5-1 in games decided by eight points are less. Unfortunately, pointsare the problem. This offense can't score -- try 14.8 points per game over the back half of the regular season.

Meanwhile, Carolina seems to be peaking precisely when it needs to -- starting with Jonathan Stewart, who has averaged 97 yards per game (at a healthy 5.3 yards a pop) over the past five weeks of action. And obviously, Stewart's not the only ground weapon on this roster. After watching Cam Newton scamper for a touchdown Sunday in Atlanta, I wondered if the Panthers QB had seen Russell Wilson's brilliant TD run on national TV one week prior and figured, Shoot, I can do that. Newton's been a much more potent rusher over his last four games, averaging 62 yards per contest. Give him 50-plus on Saturday in a win for Carolina."

Don Banks at SI.com likes the Cardinals taking their game on the road20-17, "If this game had been played in mid-November, the Cardinals might have been favored by double digits. But the world has changed dramatically for both of these clubs of late, and now Carolina is actually expected to both to move on to the NFC divisional round and climb back to the .500 mark in one fell swoop. (And I don't get to write a sentence like that each and every year in the playoffs.) The first repeat winner in the NFC South's 13-year history is the most improbable division champion ever, with Carolina sitting 3-8-1 on the morning of Dec. 7, as the Sunday of Week 14 dawned. Not even four full weeks later, the Panthers will be hosting a playoff game.

Carolina hasn't played well at home in the playoffs of late, losing by 20 points to Arizona in the 2008 divisional round and by 13 points last year to San Francisco in the divisional round. With Ryan Lindley starting once again for the Cardinals at quarterback, Arizona's Super Bowl dreams are on life support. But Bruce Arians does his best work when all appears lost, and for this week at least, I think he'll have the Cardinals prepared to cobble together an all-hands-on-deck kind of victory built around playing stout defense and getting a big play or two out of the special teams."

And Pete Prisco at CBSSports.com thinks the Cardinals can find a way to win20-17"The conventional thinking in this one is the Panthers come in on a roll, and the Cardinals are staggering into the playoffs. Arizona has lost two consecutive games, and they are playing a second straight road game, but don't discount how good the defense can be. It has carried this team all season long. Even with Ryan Lindley, the third-team quarterback in the game, I think they can force a few turnovers to give the Cardinals a short field. The Carolina offense is predicated on the running game. They were seventh in the league in rushing this season, which is why that will be key here. Arizona hasn't been great against the run, so that could be in favor of the Panthers. Cam Newton has a huge edge on Lindley at quarterback, but I think the Carolina offensive line will have issues here winning against the Arizona defense. The Cardinals defense will load up the box and slow down Carolina and turn that, plus a turnover or two, into a tough road victory."

Sunday, Jan. 4 - Lions at Cowboys, 1:40 p.m. PT, AT&T Stadium, FOX

Harrison likes the Cowboys to take care of business against the Lions, 30-20, "Strength on strength: The league's best offensive line vs. (arguably) the league's best defensive front. As you can see from the score above, I have Dallas winning Sunday -- even with Ndamukong Suh being available. No disrespect to Suh, whether or not you think he disrespected one of the league's best players last Sunday. Yes, the Lions have imposed their will up front all season, which is a big reason they boast the league's second-ranked defense and have allowed a mere 17.6 points per game. That's all fine and good -- this week, that front meets a unit that's ready to go toe-to-toe.

Dallas right guard Zack Martin isn't going to the Pro Bowl on reputation. After all, he's a rookie -- he has no reputation. Plain and simple: Dude can play. He's ready for Suh. Center Travis Frederick will lend a helping hand -- he might be almost as nasty as Suh on the inside. And with Nick Fairley looking unlikely to play, the Cowboys will be able to control Detroit's ferocious front. DeMarco Murray will not be shut down all game. Even if it's tough sledding for a while, the Cowboys have proven time and again they will not go away from the run. They are committed. And on that note, will Matthew Stafford commit costly turnovers, or miss some of the throws he missed last Sunday? The best quarterback on the Jerryworld turf this Sunday wears blue and white, and it's not Honolulu blue."

It was the dawn of a new year but the Seahawks practiced on this 'Bonus Day' before taking the next three days off.

Banks also takes the Cowboys to top the Lions, 31-27, "The first year I can really remember getting hooked on the NFL playoffs was in 1970, the first year of the new NFC-AFC format under the merger. Detroit was the NFC's one and only wild-card entry that season (only eight teams made the playoffs) and played at NFC East division champion Dallas, at the Cotton Bowl. The game was by no means a classic, but I was fascinated that the Cowboys won 5-0, in the most baseball-like playoff score I can ever recall.

I expect considerably more scoring 44 years later, with both teams capable of consistently moving the ball, especially through the air. Both clubs have their own demons to exorcise in the postseason, with Detroit not having won a playoff game since 1991, and the Cowboys' Tony Romo bearing the burden of his past big-game failures. Dallas is a different team this year, and has played with supreme confidence in the final four weeks of the season. I think the Cowboys will have a balanced attack that will pose problems for Detroit defensively, even with Ndamukong Suh having escaped his one-game suspension and returned to the lineup. The Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford grew up and starred there as a high school passer, but his homecoming won't be a happy one, and that will drop his career record to 0-18 (including playoffs) when he's on the road facing a team that finished with a winning record."

And Prisco agrees, seeing a 28-14 victory from the Cowboys"The Cowboys are rolling on offense as they enter the playoffs. That will mean little if Tony Romo can't overcome the perception that he can't win a big game. Romo has put himself into the MVP conversation with some great play over the past month. The Cowboys offense is ranked seventh in yards and fifth in scoring. But the Lions are second in total defense and second in scoring defense. The Cowboys have had big success with running back DeMarco Murray carrying a lot. Dallas is second in the league in rushing yards, with Murray getting nearly 2,000 of them, but the Lions are first in run defense and yards-per-attempt against. That's with Ndamukong Suh, who won his appeal Tuesday to overturn his league-imposed suspension for stepping on the leg of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in last week's game. That's huge for the Detroit defense. The Detroit offense hasn't been as potent as in years past. The Lions finished 22nd in scoring. Quarterback Matt Stafford also wasn't nearly as good on the road as he was at home. Even though the Dallas defense isn't great, ranking 19th, I think they are feisty and good enough to slow the Detroit offense down. I don't think there's any slowing down the Dallas offense. Tony Romo and the Cowboys will move on."

Straight-Up Picks

NFL.com's five *Around the League *writers pick the Panthers over the Cardinals and three-of-five pick the Cowboys over the Lions.

One-of-eight staffers at CBSSports.com pick the Cardinals to top the Panthers, while all eight believe the Cowboys will win.

And at ESPN.com, 10-of-13 NFL minds are taking the Panthers over the Cardinals, while all 13 like Dallas to advance.

Five Seahawks Named All-Pro

Cornerback Richard Sherman, free safety Earl Thomas, linebacker Bobby Wagner, strong safety Kam Chancellor, and running back Marshawn Lynch have been officially tabbed All-Pro by the Associated Press.

Sherman, Thomas, and Wagner were voted first-team, while Chancellor and Lynch received enough votes to be second-team selections. It's the third consecutive All-Pro selection for both Sherman and Thomas, but first for the third-year pro Wagner, who also earned his first Pro Bowl nod last month.

Tweet of the Day

Today's "Tweet of the Day" comes from Seahawks punter Jon Ryan, who shared a funny comment while watching yesterday's Sugar Bowl between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes.

More From Around The Web

Here at Seahawks.com, Clare Farnsworth has player reaction to Earl Thomas' forced fumble from this past week's win over the St. Louis Rams and recaps Thursday's events in Hawkville that featured the team's final "Bonus Day" practice of the bye week.

Gregg Rosenthal at NFL.com has his year-end QB index, ranking Russell Wilson at No. 8 among the League's signal callers.

John Boyle at the Everett Herald writes about what the Seahawks have received from defensive tackle Kevin Williams since nose tackle Brandon Mebane was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Jayson Jenks at the Seattle Times wonders if this is Lynch's best season yet.

And numberFire.com's Keith Goldner, writing for TheMMQB.com, has his 2014 NFL season in review that says offenses' are trending up, pointing to a stat that puts Seattle's Wilson in elite company.

D*id I miss anything you think is worthy of inclusion? Let me know on Twitter *

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