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Thomas Davis doubted Panthers would want him back

Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis was one of the biggest Pro-Bowl snubs this season. He might not be the anchor of the defense like Luke Kuechly, but he's had every bit the impact this season.

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Per Pro Football Focus' metrics, Davis' 7.1 yards per reception allowed was the lowest of any full-time 4-3 outside linebacker this season. Only Lavonte David of the Buccaneers had more stops (any solo tackle which constitutes an offensive failure).

After the third ACL surgery on his right knee less than two years ago, Davis wondered where his career was headed. Would the Panthers even want him back?

"That someone was willing to take a chance on me was motivation enough," Davis told NFL Media's Aditi Kinkhabwala. "If they had told me, 'Thomas, your knee has not been holding up, we're going to have to let you go,' I would've been more than understanding. I would've been OK with that. The fact that they were willing to stick by me -- that speaks volumes for this organization."

We haven't seen a linebacker with better closing speed than Davis this season. He and Kuechly outplayed the 49ers' vaunted duo of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman in the Panthers' Week 10 victory.

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Carolina's defensive performance in that game was the best we've seen all season. Colin Kaepernick was sacked six times and held to a paltry 16 rushing yards and only one completion over 11 yards.

If the Panthers are going to shut down Kaepernick with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis reinforcing the passing attack, the league's best front seven will have to dominate the line of scrimmage to the same extent they did two months ago.

Click here for our preview and prediction of Sunday's matchup.

We previewed all four divisional playoff games in the latest "Around The League Podcast."

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