Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers Can Play Spoiler vs Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Jimmy GrapponeCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2011

Cam Newton (1) and the Panthers are playing for pride this weekend against the Saints.
Cam Newton (1) and the Panthers are playing for pride this weekend against the Saints.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers (6-9) have the chance to play the spoiler role in this Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints (12-3).

The Panthers are out of the playoff hunt entering the final week of the 2011 NFL season, but they can still impact the seeding of the NFC playoffs.


Saints Playing for Record, No. 2 Seed

With a victory over the Panthers and an unlikely loss by the San Francisco 49ers (12-3) against the St. Louis Rams (2-13), the Saints can clinch the NFC's No. 2 seed and a bye-week in the first week of the playoffs.

If the Saints lose and/or the 49ers win on Sunday, New Orleans will be the No. 3 seed in the NFC.

While a 49ers loss is unlikely, the Saints, winners of seven straight games, are also playing for the NFL's single-season record for most yards gained in a season.

With 5,087 yards passing in only 15 games, quarterback Drew Brees broke Dan Marino's all-time single-season passing record for most yards in last week's Monday night game against the Atlanta Falcons (9-6).

However, Brees is playing for a team record on Sunday.

With 6,857 yards entering Week 17, the Saints trail the 2000 St. Louis Rams' NFL-record 7,075 yards by a mere 218 yards, a mark they could pass before halftime.


Record-Setting Panther

The Panthers' quarterback, rookie phenom Cam Newton, has set a few records of his own this season.

Newton's 14 rushing touchdowns are a single-season record for NFL quarterbacks and he only needs 103 yards to become the first quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards.

Newton broke Peyton Manning's NFL record for most single-season passing yards by a rookie in the Panthers' Week 16 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) and he is the hands down favorite for the NFL's 2011 Rookie of the Year award.


Panthers Playing for Pride...and 2012

The Panthers may not have a shot at the playoffs this year, but the 2012 postseason will definitely be on their minds as soon as their offseason begins after Sunday's game. 

The Panthers have an outside chance to upset the balance of this year's NFC playoffs—though they will need the Rams to pull off the biggest upset of the season to do so—and they have a chance to finish their season with a 3-3 divisional record with a win in New Orleans.

The Panthers have won four of their last five games after a 2-8 start and they are a team on the rise heading into the offseason.

While a Carolina victory on Sunday would likely be considered one of the biggest upsets of the weekend, the upstart Panthers have a legitimate chance to win.

The Saints may be prepping for the NFL playoffs, but the Panthers are playing for pride and to show the rest of the league that they will be a force to be reckoned with next season.


My Prediction

New Orleans 38, Carolina 28

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