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Week 8 NFL AM open thread: Panthers watch vs. Playoff watch!

We break down some of the Week 8 morning matchups, and provide an open thread for discussion.

This past week I re-introduced the phenomenon sweeping the Bay Area, Panthers Watch 2012. For those who missed it, the 49ers own the Carolina Panthers third round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. In 2009, the 49ers acquired the Panthers first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, which led to the first iteration of Panthers Watch as we counted down Panthers losses towards what eventually became Mike Iupati.

This week, Panthers Watch meets up with a slightly less formulated playoff watch. The 49ers still have nine games to go, but the playoff picture is slowing coming into focus. The Chicago Bears currently sit at 5-1, and along with the 6-0 Atlanta Falcons, they represent the top two seeds at this point in the NFC playoff picture.

Things can change plenty with the snap of a two- or three-game losing streak, but for now, I think it is safe to root against the Bears today. The higher third round pick is always nice, but considering this is a third round pick and not a first or second, I think we can survive with a Panthers win.

This weekend marks the second straight in which we have nine games in the morning and only two in the afternoon. I'm not really sure why the NFL is doing this, although I suppose playoff baseball might have something to do with it. I can't think of any other reason.

The morning features quite a few interesting matchups, although none between two winning teams as the 49ers and Cardinals are the only matchup of winning teams. For NFC West fans, the Seahawks travel to Detroit while the Rams face New England in London. Go Lions and Patriots!