Carolina ends their season with three division games, including a home and away contests with the Saints wrapped around a home game against the Falcons.
That finish was widely expected to settle the NFC South title, and possibly push one or two of the teams out of the playoffs.
Instead, the Saints have run away with the division, clinching the title in Week 14, while the Panthers and Saints are headed toward disappointing finishes.
Carolina is still alive for a wild-card spot, one of three teams trying to pass the 6-6-1 Vikings while fending off the 5-7-1 Packers. None of the teams competing for that last postseason slot have momentum, but none are facing the Saints twice in the last three weeks, either.
Cam Newton’s sore shoulder might be a reason for some of the Panthers’ woes, but there are plenty of folks on both sides of the ball falling short of expectations.
Drew Brees, on the other hand, could become the oldest MVP in league history if he keeps the Saints rolling. Tampa Bay played New Orleans close for a half just a week after the Cowboys surprised Brees and his plethora of offensive weapons, but there is little concern.
If coach Sean Payton needs to instill a little drive into his team, he just has to remind them this is a chance to put a dagger in a division rival.
Injuries and notes
Kicker Graham Gano is the only player listed on the Panthers’ injury report, even as Newton’s shoulder is the talk of local sports radio. It indicates his achy arm is more of a chronic thing than an acute injury. As Browns coach, Gregg Williams pointed out last week, Newton’s velocity is as good as ever.
Left tackle Terron Armstead is still listed as questionable with a shoulder injury. Fellow tackle, Michael Ola (ankle), was placed on injured reserve.
Payton indicated that Ted Ginn Jr could be activated before the end of the season, but not for this week.
Sean Payton can do nothing wrong right now in New Orleans. Of course, if the Saints lose in their first postseason matchup, things could get a little testy again in the Big Easy, but we’ll wait a few more weeks before we remind him of that.
Ron Rivera is the focus of sports radio debates about his job status. With new ownership in place, Rivera is not the favorite son and could be sacrificed for the team’s disappointing finish. Of course, beating the Saints twice in the last two weeks and grabbing a couple of postseason wins might reverse that prognosis, but…
How to watch the Panthers-Saints game
ESPN will televise this Monday Night Football matchup, which means internet TV providers like Sling TV and DirecTV Now can send it directly to your favorite internet device.
Sling TV and DirecTV Now have all the local channels and national networks you need to follow your favorite NFL team the rest of the season.
When there is no game, you can watch all your favorite movies and entertainment networks via Sling or DirecTV Now, too. Sling and DirecTV Now, like other internet TV companies like Fubo TV and YouTube TV, have dozens of the best channels and networks.
They are all available for a fraction of the cost of cable or satellite. That’s why millions have cut the cord with cable and satellite and joined the internet TV revolution. Check the DirecTV Now, Fubo TV, and Sling websites and take advantage of their free trial offers.
Read More: NFL Week 17 Game Preview: Panthers at Saints
Who will win the Panthers-Saints game?
There wasn’t much difference in the Panthers with Rivera handling the defensive play calling last week. New Orleans got back to their winning ways, but not before a sluggish start against the Buccaneers’ defense. Could that be a sign that defenses have caught up to Brees and company?