The pressure sits squarely on the shoulders of the New Orleans Saints.
After all, things turned south quickly for the Carolina Panthers in 2010 as they stand 1-6 in the NFC South and may already be on 'on the clock' for next year's No. 1 overall NFL draft pick—unlikely but possible.
Carolina Nation is not happy.
The game is being played in Charlotte and that's too bad because those Panther fans probably could have used a trip to Pat O'Brien's to calm their nerves.
Witness what those Panthers fans are saying in a Charlotte Observer fan forum these days
Anonymous said, "Ten points??? No freakin way—at best you will see nine (because we have John Kasay)."
Anonymous said, "WHY DO NFL OWNERS HIRE DEFENSE COACHES AS HEAD COACHES, I DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS, YOU PUT YOUR JOB IN HAND OF SOMEONE ELSE. HEAD COACHES SHOULD BE OFFENSIVE COACHES AND HIRE DEFENSIVE COACHES, WHAT DO YOU THINK?"
Notice Anonymous stated his view in all-caps. He must have been angry when he wrote it. I, myself, have never cared enough about football to get angry over it but I think there is something admirable about a person who does get mad as hell over his team.
It displays the kind of passion and conviction that I've never felt about anything sports related in a very long time and there is something to be said for that I think.
The Saints' talent-laden offense has been as schizo as a Bourbon Street preacher this year only less colorful.
In the absence of Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, Saints RB's Chris Ivory, Ladell Betts and Julius Jones have had their moments but not enough moments to prevent New Orleans fans from longing for Reggie and Pierre.
Everything is upside down in New Orleans. What's up is down and what's down is up.
God forbid the Saints are known as a defensive juggernaut by year's end but stranger things have happened.
The Saints "D" under Gregg Williams have surrendered the third-fewest yards in the NFL this season. While the offense struggles to put points on the board, the New Orleans defense is getting in the habit of only surrendering one touchdown a game.
However the Saints have a knack for making unlikely heroes of the opposition.
Just ask the Cleveland Browns' Peyton Hillis.
This is good news for Jonathan Stewart who will the bulk of the carries if DeAngelo Williams can not play. If the Saints found a way to make a hero out of Cleveland's Hillis, then Jonathan Stewart has a chance for a very big day.
Brees said this week, "Just because we’re sitting there at 5-3 and we were 8-0 last year doesn’t mean this isn’t a better team. I believe that we have the ability for this team to be a better team."
After last week's near perfect performance against the Steelers, the Saints "D" may very well be better than the Super Bowl version if not as opportunistic. However, the same can not be said for a New Orleans offense that has looked befuddled at times.
Sports Network says, "If the Saints play to last week's level and the Panthers perform to their usual standards, this game won't be very close. New Orleans has had its issues getting it together in consecutive weeks, however, and an offense that's been too reliant on Brees lately could run into a few problems against a Carolina defense that can hold its own versus the pass.
"The Panthers hung tough against the Saints in the Superdome last October and are capable of doing so once more this week. However, New Orleans still holds a clear talent edge that eventually will turn out to be the determining factor."
I say the Saints win in the finals seconds on a 39-yard Garrett Hartley field goal.
Saints 20 Panthers 17