4 ways the Carolina Panthers can still impact the playoff picture

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule /
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Carolina Panthers
(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports) Cameron Jordan /

Denying the Saints a round one bye

There might be a lot riding on the final game of the 2020 season, at least from the Saints’ perspective. They currently hold a one-game lead for the NFC’s No. 1 seed, which would give them a crucial bye ahead of their expected Super Bowl bid.

With the Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Los Angeles Rams all breathing down their necks, it might just come down to the wire, and facing a relaxed Carolina Panthers team would represent a real banana skin for Sean Payton’s men.

The first game between the two sides at the Mercedez-Benz Superdome was close before the Saints eventually came through in the clutch. This is a problem that was particularly evident during Carolina’s five-game losing run and is the difference between the good and the great sides.

However, the Panthers can go into this one with the incentive of knowing there won’t be anything else in the way of competitive action for them this season. It will also be the final opportunity for players facing an uncertain future to convince the coaching staff of their worth, so it would be a big surprise if they didn’t finish off with a strong performance.

Whether this will be enough to topple the Saints is up for debate, especially if they have the added incentive of resting up while other NFC championship contenders take to the gridiron in the new playoff format.