Vikings will play Panthers-Saints victor in divisional round

Carolina Panthers Cam Newton hugs New Orleans Saints Drew Brees before an NFL football game in Charlotte N.C. Sunday Sept. 24 2017. The Saints won 34-13

Payton pointed out that the Panthers not only defeated two of the top teams in the National Football League this season - New England and Minnesota - but beat the Patriots on the road.

And because the universe has a cruel sense of humor, Clay dropped a would-be third-down touchdown pass in the first quarter of Sunday's 31-26 loss in the Superdome, while two plays later, the vertical threat the Panthers let walk last spring scored an 80-yard touchdown pass that completely shifted the momentum in the Saints' favor.

The Pro Bowl running back tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara helped the Saints rush for 149 and 148 yards in two games against Carolina, the two highest rushing totals allowed by Carolina this season. New Orleans beat the Panthers, 31-21, in the dome on December 3 and won, 34-13, at Carolina on September 24.

It's a clash of two teams who made it to the Super Bowl - and one winning it - and neither have done much since. Let's take a look. "I think that's something that's going to be huge, if guys can take advantage of these four days to really attack their body and try to get as close to 100 percent as possible".

"From the midpoint of the season, when (Carolina) got on a roll, you can see the confidence grow with that team". The Vikings handled New Orleans 29-19 in Week 1, but both teams look different since that November 11 matchup. Luke Kuechly and the Panthers linebacking corps will face a tall task in slowing down the Saints dynamic rushers. "We have to figure out what went well and improve on that and what went wrong and correct that". Meanwhile, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was very bad, passing for just 167 yards and three interceptions. Newton has averaged 12.5 carries for 59.7 yards per game in Carolina's past four games. Had the Vikings had to play this weekend, Rudolph said, "I can't tell you what Plan B would have been". "I feel like I help the team when I'm running the football". "You pay attention to the personnel and the thing that you didn't do well in the early two games".

He can't play like he did in a shocking 17-3 loss at Chicago in Week 7, when he got sacked five times, posted a 54.9 QB rating, provided a helping hand in two Bears defensive TDs and looked more and more disinterested with each squandered possession.

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. Carolina still lost 31-21, but the 2015 MVP feels he's a more effective player when not chained to the pocket.

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