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Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Panthers Hope to End Season on High Note

Sharon Thorsland
December 27, 2019 - 1:37 pm

A pair of teams going in different directions face off when the Panthers take on the Saints on Sunday. Kick-off is set for 1:00 on WBT.

It's the season finale for the Panthers, who are 5-10 on the year and headed into an off-season full of unknowns.

The Saints, meanwhile, are 12-3 and are in the thick of a playoff race. They're fighting for a first-round bye and possible home-field advantage, and don't think for a minute that the Panthers wouldn't mind spoiling things.

“This team is playing for first place in the NFC, this team is playing for a bye week,” said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. “It would be great to play spoiler.”

These teams faced off a month ago in New Orleans, and the Panthers were just a few missed kicks away from winning it.

Instead it was the Saints kicking a last-second field goal to win it 34-31. Things have gone from bad to worse since then for the Panthers, who have lost four more games, changed quarterbacks, and seen their head coach fired.

Meanwhile, the Saints have kept on winning, setting some major milestones in the process. All-everything quarterback Drew Brees became the NFL's all-time career leader with 544 touchdown passes, and All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas set the mark for receptions in a season with 145 on the year.

The Saints have plenty of other weapons, including former Panther receiver Tedd Ginn, Jr. And they also have their own version of Christian McCaffrey in Alvin Kamara.

The third-year back is second on the team with 79 catches and has 758 rushing yards. He teams with fellow Pro Bowler Latavious Murray, who presents his own problems with nearly 800 combined yards and six touchdowns.

This game could mark a milestone for McCaffrey, who needs just 67 to reach 1,000 receiving yards for the season and become just the third player in NFL history to post 1,000 receiving and rushing yards in the same season.

McCaffrey will be going against a pretty dinged up Saints secondary. Three of their top safeties are injured, so is starting cornerback Eli Apple.

The Saints did bring in former Giant Jenoris Jenkins, though, he has four picks on the season.  The Saints have an aggressive front seven that gets after the quarterback – they've got 49 sacks, that's tied for third in the league.

Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Jordan has 14.5 of those. Former Panther linebacker A.J. Klein pairs with Demario Davis, who leads the team in tackles.

“They're pretty good,” said Panther quarterback Will Grier. “They fly around, they're playing at a pretty high level right now. We're going to have to show up and play a good game.”

There's no doubt the Panthers would love to play a good game – it's been nearly two months since they won a game, and they'd love to end that losing skid and beat their division rivals in the process.

“You got a one-game season – win one game,” was interim coach Perry Fewell's message to the team. “If you win this one game, it will be alright.”  

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