This Sunday marks an intriguing matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers. Why? Because two teams that earned playoff byes last year are suddenly fighting for their postseason lives.

Seattle (3-3) is two games behind Arizona in the NFC West, while Carolina (3-3-1) is atop a mediocre NFC South despite allowing 37+ points in four games this season. Kickoff in Carolina is slated for 1 p.m. ET.

“Big, big game for both teams,” NFL on CBS analyst Ian Eagle said on Ferrall on the Bench. “Carolina (is) a team that was trying to build on the success of last year, but they definitely made big changes in their roster. When Dave Gettleman, the GM, made those changes, he had to know that a microscope was going to be on the team to see how they would respond. Cam Newton (and) the offensive line has been banged up. Defensively, they’re not even close to where they were a year ago.”

The Panthers ranked second in both total defense and scoring defense (15.1 points per game) last year. This year, they rank 30th and 29th (27.9), respectively.

Seattle, meanwhile, has also taken a hit. The Seahawks ranked first in total defense and scoring defense (14.4) last year but now rank third and 19th (23.5), respectively.

Nevertheless, Las Vegas still considers Seattle the second-best team in football.

“Look, there is a lot of talk about what’s going on in that locker room now,” Eagle said. “That keeps popping up. That’s not a good thing. That means that it’s going to be a distraction. It’s going to be talked about week in, week out.”

Giving away Percy Harvin didn’t help matters, either. The Seahawks have now lost two straight and three of five since their dominant opening-night victory over Green Bay.

“Until they start winning consistently, they’re not going to be able to get away from that subject,” Eagle said, referring to the locker room issues. “I don’t think they’re the second-best team in the NFL, but I still believe they’re a playoff team in the NFC. The NFC is still very fluid.”

Yes and no. If the playoffs started today, Seattle wouldn’t be in them; in fact, neither would San Francisco. Dallas (6-1) and Philadelphia (5-1) appear like playoff locks, which leaves just one Wild Card spot. Well, right now, both Detroit and Green Bay are 5-2, and Arizona is 5-1.

In other words, if the Seahawks plan on making the playoffs, they should probably plan on winning this weekend. And they should also plan on winning both games against Arizona – at home Nov. 23 and on the road Dec. 21.

“Arizona has surprised so many people,” Eagle said. “Bruce Arians has done an incredible job with that team, no matter who the quarterback has been. They’ve got the defense playing at a high level, and Andre Ellington is a star. He is a star player, a legitimate star player.”

Ellington has 653 total yards this season – 393 rushing and 260 receiving – to go with two touchdowns.

Arizona hosts Philadelphia this Sunday in a game that could have playoff-bye implications. Kickoff is at 4:05 p.m. ET.


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