NFC Wild Card Preview: Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints

Carolina Panthers Greg Olsen catches a pass as New Orleans Saints Kenny Vaccaro defends in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte N.C. Sunday Sept. 27 2015

Panthers look to continue wild card weekend success

Fifteen weeks later, the Saints are 11-5 and back in the playoffs for the first time in four years and will be hosting those same Panthers, also now 11-5, on Sunday. They will need to win a third if they want to continue into the playoffs.

DIVISIONAL grudge matches bring something extra to a play-off game and that's exactly what there is at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on Sunday night.

Well, this season the New Orleans Saints have been running the ball much more than ever, terrorizing the league with the NFL's top running back tandem: Alvin Kamara and former Heisman Trophy victor Mark Ingram.

The Odds: The Saints opened as a 6 point favorite and that line has actually moved north to 7.

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

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The late game between the Panthers and the Saints is the third meeting between the two teams. The Carolina Panthers are looking for another shot at the championship since losing it to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, while the New Orleans Saints haven't been to the big dance since Super Bowl 34 in 2009. New Orleans is 3-5 in wild card contests.

"We didn't get up for that game and that's on us".

But the 80-yard bomb helped New Orleans to 229 yards on its next three drives, to a 21-9 halftime lead, while Clay's drop (followed by Graham Gano's first missed field goal since Week 5), kept the Panthers just out of reach even as they fought back to within five points in the fourth quarter.

Although Olsen is back and considered to be healthy, Saints safety Rafael Bush said he expects the Panthers to continue to be a run-heavy offense. Once Newton gets hot in the running game, the passing game can be hard to defend because of his ability to dominate on the ground or through the air.

"You're talking about one of the better tight ends in the game and so not having him is significant and having him (in the previous games) is huge", Saints coach Sean Payton said.

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"I've said before, I thought that two-game road stretch we took was important at Carolina and at London", Payton said.

"We've got a fire lit up under us to come out here and play the way we know we're capable of playing", defensive tackle Tyeler Davison said.

"A team beats you twice and you get to play them a third time?" wide receiver Russell Shepard said.

Commissioner Roger Goodell says it is good for the league that eight of the 12 teams in this year's playoffs are new.

Saints: DE Trey Henderson (ankle), OL Terron Armstead (thigh) are QUESTIONABLE.

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