NFC Wild Card Preview: Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints


That's the scenario the New Orleans Saints (11-5) face this Sunday as they host the Carolina Panthers (11-5) in an NFC wild-card matchup. And that's due to their backfield. Of Carolina's 11 wins, only three came by a margin of more than one score and two of those occurred before November.

Drew threw 137 fewer passes this year, but connected with more for a NFL-record 72.0 completion percentage.

Conversely, Saints kicker Wil Lutz missed five field goals during the regular season, all from 40 yards or longer.

With a 29-19 loss to the Vikings and a a 36-20 loss to the Patriots, the Saints were off to their fourth consecutive 0-2 start.

Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis feels like the Panthers have been an afterthought on the National Football League landscape all season, even while they were beating the Patriots on the road in Week 4 and running off seven wins in an eight-game stretch. Much like Newton, Brees will throw interceptions under duress. We've got to go out there and try to get this win.

Center Ryan Kalil, a five-time Pro Bowler, has another year left on his contract.

The confidence was the big thing.

"We just know he's a passing threat", Bell added.

"We knew hat if we wanted to be who we wanted to be, and if we wanted to compete the way we wanted to compete, then we had to turn it around some way, somehow".

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Saints coach Sean Payton takes a small measure of comfort in New Orleans' regular-season sweep of Carolina.

Payton downplays the regular-season wins over Carolina now, reminding everyone that the playoffs are a single game elimination tournament, but the Saints have to be in the Panthers head, if only just a little bit.

Their investment helped finance the stadium when it was built, so if the new Panthers owner moves the team out of Charlotte, they will lose those seat licenses. And it's a role they are embracing.

"Nobody ever looked at this team and said we had a chance - at any given point in this season". A lot of people didn't have us picked (to be) here anyway. They didn't look good in last week's 22-10 loss at Atlanta with the division on the line.

If Sunday's NFC South showdown comes down to a kick to win it, you wouldn't mind have either kicker on your roster but would prefer Gano by a slight edge given his postseason experience.

Wideout Russell Shepard, who joined Carolina from Tampa in the spring, remembers the Panthers being picked to finish last in 2015, when they went on to finish 15-1. "I think it's exciting for the organization". "They're going to make adjustments, and you have to make adjustments, as well".

The truth is, either one of these teams could have a championship in their immediate horizon. He just has to be himself, which oftentimes has been good enough, especially in home wildcard games. Meanwhile, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was very bad, passing for just 167 yards and three interceptions.

But before looking too far ahead, first they have to get past each other.