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Steve Smith (89) heads into the end zone before being hit in the back after the play by safety Roman Harper in what was likely a "Bounty Gate" inspired collision.
The New Orleans Saints had one of the most prolific offensive seasons in NFL history in 2011.
Drew Brees passed for 5,476 yards and 46 touchdowns, breaking Dan Marino's 27-year-old record for most passing yards in a season.
Brees and the Saints finally agreed to a long-term contract worth $100 million during the offseason, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
However, there is a decidedly more positive vibe surrounding the Carolina Panthers than the Saints heading into the 2012 season.
In addition to their demoralizing 36-32 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 NFL Playoffs, New Orleans just endured their most controversial and tumultuous offseason in franchise history with the Bountygate scandal.
Punishments meted out by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for the Saints' bounty program included the suspension of four players, three coaches and the general manager for varying lengths of time.
Head Coach Sean Payton is being forced to sit out this season and he is not permitted to have contact with any member of the Saints organization.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended from the NFL indefinitely, and interim coach Joe Vitt will serve a six-game suspension to start the regular season after leading his troops through training camp and the preseason.
GM Mickey Loomis is suspended for the first eight games of the season.
Pro Bowl linebacker Jonathan Vilma is actively protesting his one-year suspension from the NFL while Anthony Hargrove (eight games), Will Smith (four games) and Scott Fujita (three games) will return to the field at some point this season.
Carolina is entering the preseason full of optimism with Ron Rivera at the helm and with a healthy defense, improved special teams and a more seasoned Cam Newton at quarterback.
The Saints remain a better team than the Panthers heading into the 2012 season, but all the distractions they faced during the offseason and those they will continue to face in the first half of the regular season have squashed their momentum while Carolina is a team on the upswing.
Only time will tell if the tables have turned by the time Carolina and New Orleans close out the regular season together on December 30, but the Panthers will have momentum on their side heading into a Week 2 showdown against the Saints in Charlotte that could put them in the NFC South's driver's seat.