Final

Panthers 44

(7-9, 4-4 away)

Saints 38

(7-9, 4-4 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 30, 2012

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA 

1 2 3 4 T
CAR 3 10 14 1744
NO 0 17 7 1438

Top Performers

Passing: D. Brees (NO) - 396 YDS, 4 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: D. Williams (CAR) - 21 CAR, 210 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: L. Moore (NO) - 4 REC, 121 YDS

Panthers-Saints Preview

STATS LLC

After disappointing seasons, the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints are both looking to use their Week 17 meeting to springboard them to better things next year. But it's unclear whether a win in New Orleans on Sunday will help keep Carolina from making sweeping organizational changes.

Since starting 2-8, the Panthers (6-9) have won four of five. They've won three straight by double digits, including a victory against the NFC's top seed Atlanta, but it still might not be enough for owner Jerry Richardson to retain coach Ron Rivera for another year.

Rivera is 12-19 in two seasons at the helm and still has two years remaining on his contract. But even a 7-9 finish would likely be a disappointment for a team that seemed to have a shot at its first playoff berth since 2008-09 after Cam Newton burst on the scene as a rookie last season and the team won four of its final six games.

Rivera said there hasn't been any assurances from Richardson, and the two haven't had any recent discussions regarding his job.

"I think we're doing some really good things and I like the way the guys have stayed focused," Rivera said. "That is very gratifying for a coach knowing that they're hearing the messages the coaches are sending. I appreciate their focus to the details of preparing. We have done a lot of good things."

For what it's worth, many of Rivera's players seem to have his back.

"It is great to fight for a guy that believes in us," Steve Smith said after Carolina's 17-6 win against Oakland on Sunday. "We believe in him. It's just a great way to show our appreciation for someone."

Another decision looming ahead for Richardson is on the general manager front. He hired former Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi as a consultant to help replace Marty Hurney, whom Richardson fired after the Panthers started 1-5. Brandon Beane has served as the team's interim general manager in the meantime, and is considered a candidate for the full-time position.

The Saints (7-8) will miss the playoffs for the first time in four years. New Orleans faced an uphill fight after the team's suspensions because of the bounty scandal, and started 0-4. Despite going 7-4 since, including Sunday's 34-31 overtime win at Dallas during which Drew Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns, the Saints were eliminated from contention due to other results.

Joe Vitt, the team's interim coach in place of the suspended Sean Payton after serving his own six-game suspension, is focused on making this season an outlier among recent years that have been the most successful in the franchise's history. Vitt has one particular goal in mind for the future.

"There's two types of Super Bowl winners: Those that win and those that win one," Vitt said. "And our goal is to win two and we're working toward that goal right now."

New Orleans' defense will try to avoid infamy on Sunday. The Saints have surrendered 6,512 yards this season, 281 shy of the record 6,793 given up by the 1981 Baltimore Colts, which Vitt served as an assistant coach for. New Orleans allows 434.1 yards per game, over 40 yards more than the next worst team.

They have improved recently, allowing 376.8 over the last five games. The Saints' 41-0 shutout of Tampa Bay two weeks ago was the team's first since 1995.

"The main thing for me is we want to get a win," said linebacker Curtis Lofton. "So if we give up however many yards and we get a win, I'll take the W any day. This year has been very different for me and a lot of the guys, you know, giving up all the yards and all that stuff. The first four games was tough, but when you look at us the last seven games, we played great defense."

Taking aim against the suspect unit will be Newton, who recently has more resembled the record-setting rookie of last year. Newton has thrown for 14 TDs and three interceptions over his past eight games, compiling a passer rating of 99.3. His rating through the first seven games was 75.2 as he threw five TDs and was picked off eight times while the Panthers went 1-6.

Carolina had lost four straight in the series before Newton accounted for 324 total yards and two scores in a 35-27 win on Sept. 16. A Saints victory on Sunday would even the all-time series at 18 wins each.

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Passing Leaders

CarolinaCMP%YDSTDINT
C. Newton63.872830
D. Anderson71.438130
New OrleansCMP%YDSTDINT
D. Brees71.4120373

Rushing Leaders

CarolinaCARYDSAVGTD
D. Williams251064.20
J. Stewart29883.01
New OrleansCARYDSAVGTD
K. Robinson402155.41
M. Ingram241436.03

Receiving Leaders

CarolinaRECYDSAVGTD
K. Benjamin2132915.73
G. Olsen2125412.12
New OrleansRECYDSAVGTD
J. Graham3234010.63
B. Cooks231998.71

Team Averages & NFL Ranks

TEAM OFFENSETEAMPER GAME AVERAGE
Total YardsCAR
 
 361
NO
 
 411
Yards PassingCAR
 
 230
NO
 
 312
Yards RushingCAR
 
 131
NO
 
 99
TEAM DEFENSETEAMPER GAME AVERAGE
Yards AllowedCAR
 
 333
NO
 
 440
Pass Yds AllowedCAR
 
 223
NO
 
 293
Rush Yds AllowedCAR
 
 110
NO
 
 148

Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)

Carolina leads 13-11
Sep 16, 2012CAR 35, NO 27
Jan 1, 2012CAR 17, @NO 45
Oct 9, 2011CAR 27, NO 30
Nov 7, 2010CAR 3, NO 34
Oct 3, 2010CAR 14, @NO 16
Jan 3, 2010CAR 23, NO 10
Nov 8, 2009CAR 20, @NO 30
Dec 28, 2008CAR 33, @NO 31
Oct 19, 2008CAR 30, NO 7
Nov 25, 2007CAR 6, NO 31
Oct 7, 2007CAR 16, @NO 13
Dec 31, 2006CAR 31, @NO 21
Oct 1, 2006CAR 21, NO 18
Dec 18, 2005CAR 27, @NO 10
Sep 11, 2005CAR 20, NO 23
Jan 2, 2005CAR 18, NO 21
Dec 5, 2004CAR 32, @NO 21
Oct 26, 2003CAR 23, @NO 20
Oct 5, 2003CAR 19, NO 13
Dec 29, 2002CAR 10, @NO 6
Nov 10, 2002CAR 24, NO 34
Dec 2, 2001CAR 23, @NO 27
Oct 14, 2001CAR 25, NO 27

Research Notes

Cam Newton finishes up his sophomore campaign with the Panthers this weekend. While his win/loss record hasn't been to his liking, his stats are astronomical. Newton is 1 of 3 players in NFL history to have 3,500 passing yards, 20 touchdown passes and 10 rushing touchdowns in his 1st 2 seasons combined joining Vince Young and Steve Grogan. And look at Newton's numbers... he's light years ahead of those two.
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