Vikings will play Panthers-Saints victor in divisional round

Cam Newton

Cam Newton

This game is the last chance of the season for the Panthers to hand New Orleans an L, and to also eliminate the Saints from the playoffs? That's quite a few more than the Atlanta Falcons (143), and more than double that of Carolina's first-round opponent, the New Orleans Saints (90).

The third time was not a charm for the Carolina Panthers.

Both defences have given up 20.4 points per game while Carolina are a tad more stingy than New Orleans in yards allowed. And obviously, you don't just look at the games you played them.

At 32 years old, Ginn has caught a league-high 76 percent of his targets - more of the universe's twisted humor, as Ginn is remembered more by Panthers fans (at least those on social media) for the balls he dropped in a blue-and-white jersey than those he caught.

That had the New Orleans head coach feeling pretty good about hisself after the game.

Maybe they play their best game of the year and win in the last seconds on a Graham Gano walk off. The battle-tested Brees playing at home is a bad matchup for Carolina, arguably the worst possible one for them in the entire NFC tournament.

BC-FBN-Panthers-Saints, 140 Brees, defensive stand, help Saints survive Panthers, 31-26AP Photo LAGH130, LAGH141, LAGH138, LAGH146, LAGH145, LAGH126, LAGH127, LAGH128Eds: APNewsNow.

If Carolina quarterback Cam Newton doesn't don his cape and play like a superhero in Sunday's NFC wildcard game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome, the Black and Gold likely will complete the rare trifecta and advance to the divisional round.

He can't play like he did in a 34-13 loss to the visiting, then-winless Saints in Week 3, when he threw three interceptions, got sacked four times, posted a 43.8 QB rating and didn't look fully healthy from off-season shoulder surgery. But Newton, Carolina's leading rusher this season, didn't run much in two losses to New Orleans, gaining 67 yards on nine carries. The biggest key is for the Panthers to get the ground game going. "It's not like, "Oh, the playoffs are here, it's time to ramp it up or things are a little more important.' It's always important for me".

The No 8 overall pick out of Stanford was strictly a third down back behind veteran Jonathan Stewart, and neither have been very successful running the ball. But ultimately New Orleans has too much speed and firepower to be held down for long.

Meanwhile, Panthers star tight end Greg Olsen and Saints Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore are slated to play after missing each of the previous two meetings.

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