TV Schedule: Sunday, Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX
Stadium: Bank of America Stadium
Weather: High 75, Low 56
Line: Carolina (-3)
Having one of the best seasons in recent memory, the Carolina Panthers are on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 2008. After a slow start to the year, the Panthers have rebounded nicely to put together a 10-4 record with two games remaining, on the verge of their first division title in five years. Cam Newton is having an MVP-type season for Carolina, passing for 3,049 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for another 507 yards and six scores. Steve Smith continues to be one of Newton’s favorite targets, catching 63 passes for 701 yards and four scores while tight end Greg Olsen leads the team with 739 yards and five touchdowns on 63 catches. DeAngelo Williams leads the eighth-best rushing attack with 743 yards and two scores.
Playing in the most important game of the season, the New Orleans Saints must win in week 16 in order to win the division. Tied for first place with the Panthers in the division, a win would give New Orleans the tie-breaker with two wins on the year and a guaranteed division title. Drew Brees has had a Brees-like season once again, passing for 4,500 yards and 34 touchdowns, hitting tight end Jimmy Graham a team-high 76 times for 1,071 yards and 14 touchdowns. Marques Colston has come on as of late, catching 64 passes for 813 yards and five touchdowns. Pierre Thomas leads the seventh-worst rushing attack in the nation with 521 yards and just one score on 3.8 yards per carry.
Defensively, both the Panthers and Saints have been stellar this season. Carolina ranks second in the league in points allowed, rushing yards allowed and total yards allowed per game while also ranking fifth in passing yards allowed per game. New Orleans ranks fifth in points allowed and total yards allowed per game while ranking third in passing yards allowed and struggling against the run a bit, ranking 21st in rush yards allowed per game.
PREDICTION: Saints 31, Panthers 27
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.