Vikings will play Panthers-Saints victor in divisional round

Esther Moore
January 8, 2018

The Saints won both meetings in the regular season, and rather easily, too, but defeating a team three times in no season is no easy task.

Their third meeting - also the first playoff clash between them - is loaded with story lines.

It means the Saints (11-5) play the Panthers (11-5) in the Superdome, where New Orleans hasn't lost a playoff game since 1992 and is 4-0 in the postseason under Payton.

Brees completed 23-of-32 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns, and looked like a former All-Pro and former Super Bowl winning quarterback, coming through big in the big moment. A large part of that was the improvement of the Saints running game with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

Saints head coach Sean Payton almost cost his team the game when he made a decision to go for it on 4th & short with a 5-point lead, rather than punting the ball and trying to pin the Panther deep with less than two minutes remaining. The Saints are a 7-point favorite, according to Vegas Insider.

The Panthers clinched the franchise's third 11-win season in 2017, joining the 2003 and 2005 Carolina squads. The Saints rebounded with a 31-21 win at home over - surprise! - the Carolina Panthers.

New Orleans dominated Carolina in two divisional games this season, taking down the Panthers by a combined score of 65-35. The Vikings handled New Orleans 29-19 in Week 1, but both teams look different since that November 11 matchup. When the teams met again in December, in what was ostensibly a game to decide the NFC South championship, the results were not much better, with Newton held under two hundred yards passing again and frequently looking perplexed.

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"I think this team is at its best when doubt is overwhelming against them", Shepard said on the Panthers website. "Not having him is significant and having him is huge", Saints coach Sean Payton said. "You look at what they've been doing over the last four or five weeks".

"It just kind of let everybody know, 'Hey, we're not a bad team, we're not a bad defense". The early run-game success (see above) will get the Saints linebackers to bite on play-action fakes, creating some space for Olsen in the secondary.

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

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.

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

New Orleans could get starting left tackle Terron Armstead back from a thigh injury that kept him out of last week's 31-24 loss at Tampa Bay.

Other reports by GlobalViralNews

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