CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Carolina Panthers can punch their tickets to the NFC Playoffs for the first time since 2008, and take over first place in the NFC South when they welcome the New Orleans Saints to Bank of America Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Carolina, 10-4, is coming off a 30-20 win over the New York Jets back in Week 15 at Bank of America Stadium. The Saints suffered a 27-16 setback in St. Louis one week ago. New Orleans has an identical 10-4 record, but the Saints are currently in first place, thanks to a 31-13 win over the Panthers one week prior in New Orleans.
The Panthers aren't focused on any of the talk regarding playoff seeding or scenarios. They only care about the Saints and controlling what they can control. "Honestly, people have been saying this is the scenario for us to win the division or this is the scenario for us to finish with the number two overall seed, I really don't know. I couldn't tell you who we played two weeks ago. I'm locked in on who we play Sunday," said Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert.
Quarterback Cam Newton says his team will rely heavily on the home crowd, which has played a huge factor in Carolina''s 6-1 record at home this season. "I believe and I know we have the best fans in the NFL. We have a fan base from two states that come together and pull for us. It's an opportunity for us to do something big."
The Panthers secondary struggled mightily against Saints Quarterback Drew Brees in the last meeting between the two teams. Brees eclipsed the 50,000-yard passing mark for his NFL career, with a 313 yard performance two weeks ago, to go along with 4 touchdowns. Carolina's secondary will be up for the test this time around. "They did some good things against us in the first game, but in this game Sunday, we look to execute our game plan, do what we do and fight our fight."
Carolina is currently the fifth seed in the NFC Playoff picture. They can win the NFC South Division and earn a first round playoff bye and host a second round playoff game by beating the Saints Sunday and then taking care of business in Atlanta in Week 17. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Bank of America Stadium.