They don’t play in the same division. In fact, the two teams are separated by almost 3,000 miles.
Neither factor matters. The Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks—who will battle on Sunday afternoon for the right to go to the NFC Championship Game—are developing one of the NFL’s budding rivalries.
Since 2012, the two franchises have played five times, including during last season’s playoffs. While the Seahawks won in the NFC Divisional Round last January, the Panthers came from behind to beat Seattle back in October.
The sixth meeting over the last four years will decide which team advances to the door step of a Super Bowl.
“It’s going to be fun, it’s always fun when we play Carolina,” said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, via the Charlotte Observer. “It will be a physical game, go back and forth, with both teams running it. We’ll both hit each other in the mouth. Then we’ll see who’s standing at the end.”
Carolina finished the 2015 season with a 15-1 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, while Seattle has won seven of its last eight games, including last Sunday’s miraculous victory in Minnesota. The Panthers might be the favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 50, but they’ll first have to knock off the two-time defending conference champions to get there.
Here’s a look at the previous five games in this budding rivalry:
Oct. 2012: Seahawks 16, Panthers 12
Seattle held Carolina to 190 total yards, and Russell Wilson—then a rookie quarterback making his fifth career NFL start—rebounded from throwing a pick-six to produce the go-ahead points on a touchdown pass to Golden Tate late in the third quarter. The Seahawks forced two turnovers in the fourth quarter and made a stand on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line to preserve the win.
Sept. 2013: Seahawks 12, Panthers 7
Trailing for most of the contest, the Seahawks received a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Wilson to Jermaine Kearse and a game-saving turnover caused by safety Earl Thomas to power a Week 1 win in Carolina. The two teams would go on to win 25 combine games during the 2013 regular season.
Oct. 2014: Seahawks 13, Panthers 9
Graham Gano’s 46-yard field goal with 4:37 left in the fourth quarter gave Carolina a 9-6 lead in a game started with five consecutive field goals. Wilson once again provided a comeback, leading the Seahawks 80 yards in nine plays to win the game. He capped off the drive with a 23-yard strike to tight end Luke Willson with 47 seconds left.
Jan. 2015: Seahawks 31, Panthers 17
Carolina was unable to advantage of a rematch opportunity during last year’s NFC Divisional Round. Wilson threw three touchdown passes to build a 24-10 lead before safety Kam Chancellor returned a Cam Newton interception 90 yards for the dagger score. Rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin caught two touchdowns from Newton, but three Carolina turnovers doomed the Panthers’ upset bid in Seattle.
Oct. 2015: Panthers 27, Seahawks 23
Carolina finally broke their Seahawks curse, while giving Wilson a taste of his own medicine in the process. Down 20-7 and 23-14 in the second half, the Panthers rallied late, with Newton’s 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen with 32 seconds left capping off the comeback. Jonathan Stewart ran for two scores, and Newton both threw and ran for a touchdown.