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Saints defeat the Panthers 31-26, advance to NFC divisional round

08 January 2018

In the two meetings between these teams this year New Orleans won 34-13 and 31-21. It's been so long since they played the Saints - who unleashed rookie Alvin Kamara and solidified their defense after the Week 1 loss - that their season-opening win might not be worth much as a template.

The Atlanta Falcons will face the Philadelphia Eagles on the other side of the NFC bracket, with the victor advancing to face either the Vikings or Saints in the NFC Championship game.

It will be the first time these franchises collide in the postseason since the Vikings' dramatic 31-28 loss to New Orleans in the 2010 NFC Championship game. It lost to Atlanta, 27-20, on December 28, 1991, in the dome after splitting with the Falcons during the regular season. The Bills earned their first playoff berth since 1999.

Conventional NFL wisdom states that it is hard for one team to beat another three times during the course of one season, but that notion fails to hold up when looking at the actual numbers. Luke Kuechly and the Panthers linebacking corps will face a tall task in slowing down the Saints dynamic rushers. The Vikings handled New Orleans 29-19 in Week 1, but both teams look different since that November 11 matchup. Newton has averaged 12.5 carries for 59.7 yards per game in Carolina's past four games. "Things they did against us that worked, they're going to try to come back and do again". Newton attempted to walk off the hit, but instead sat down on the field near Carolina's sideline and was attended to by team doctors. "You look at what they've been doing over the last four or five weeks".

An early dagger, courtesy of Ted Ginn Jr. He played for Carolina in 2013 and in 2015 and '16.

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"Each game's different", said Payton, whose team took its first NFC South crown since 2011 by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker over Carolina. "I know the team's ins and outs".

"We need to compile good series on top of good series", Panthers left guard Andrew Norwell told USA TODAY Sports. They did beat them twice handily.

The Panthers will get just that. Will Drew Brees give the New Orleans Saints another National Football League title? They're a very good defense. "They're going to make adjustments, and you have to make adjustments, as well".

Not all Saints will be so familiar with the Panthers.

"We start this time of year, and everyone is starting from scratch", he said. "If you look at those two games, we flat out didn't get it done. Maybe things you did well, but from a playoff standpoint you understand that now you are in a single elimination tournament".

Saints defeat the Panthers 31-26, advance to NFC divisional round