The Panthers are headed to the playoffs but looked like they didn’t belong following their 22-10 loss in Atlanta. Matt Bryant booted five field goals in the second half to propel Atlanta into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. The Panthers are the No. 5 seed.
Do they belong?
For the second straight week, the offense has started slow. A non-existent run game and receivers who struggled to get open Sunday in Atlanta. Quarterback Cam Newton started the game 0-for-9 passing and finished with only one touchdown and three interceptions along with a 31.5 passer rating, the worst of his career.
The loss ruined an opportunity that would have made the Panthers NFC South champions. That’s what they would have been with a win because the Saints fell in Tampa Bay. Instead, New Orleans wins the division and earns the NFC’s No. 4 seed plus a home game for an NFC Wild Card matchup with Carolina next weekend.
Matchup vs New Orleans
At first glance, it’s not a great matchup for the Panthers, who were swept by a combined score of 65-34 this season. But who knows what will happen in what will be the first-ever playoff game between NFC South teams.
The showdown will mark the first time that two NFC South teams will square off in the postseason since realignment in 2002. Every other NFC division has had at least two playoff matchups in the current alignment.
The fourth-seeded Saints (11-5) handed the fifth-seeded Panthers (11-5) two of their losses this season, winning in Charlotte 34-13 in Week 3 and in New Orleans 31-21 in Week 13.
The Panthers are 3-0 in the wild card round all-time, including a 23-0 victory at the Giants in 2005 – the lone road wild-card game in franchise history.
Its hard to beat a team three times, which is what New Orleans will try to do next weekend.