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Week 14 NFL morning game thread: Panthers Watch, playoff picture continue to come into focus

We break down the Week 14 10:00 a.m. games of note and provide and open thread for discussion.

Panthers Watch 2012

The NFL returns for Week 14 Sunday action as we wait for the afternoon kickoff of 49ers-Dolphins. The afternoon is the big time for the 49ers with Seahawks-Cardinals kicking off 20 minutes after the 49ers game. We'll be playing plenty close attention to those games, but the AM slate of games includes some pertinent matchups.

For the 49ers, there are two particularly pertinent games. The Vikings host the Bears in a game with playoff significance. The Vikings are looking to hang around the wild card, while the Bears need to hold serve with the Packers, who play on Sunday Night Football against the Lions.

The morning schedule also features the 3-9 Panthers hosting the 11-1 Falcons. The 49ers chances at the No. 1 seed are pretty slim at this point, but a Panthers loss, on the other hand, continues to boost the third round pick to which the 49ers hold a claim. With a slightly improved Jaguars squad hosting the wildly inconsistent Jets, the Panthers could inch a little bit closer to the top of the third round. Panthers Watch continues!

We'll be back at 11:35 with inactives and approximately 12:45 with the first game thread.