Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints Pick & Prediction JANUARY 8th 2023

Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Superdome New Orleans
Logo Carolina Panthers
Logo New Orleans Saints

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Neither the Carolina Panthers nor the New Orleans Saints will be going to the playoffs.

Their flickering hopes were snuffed out last weekend, so both of their seasons will end when they meet Sunday in New Orleans.

Both teams have played better down the stretch and hope to grab another victory to take positive momentum into the offseason.

The Panthers (6-10) are 5-6 under Steve Wilks, who was promoted from defensive coordinator to interim head coach when Matt Rhule was fired after a 1-4 start. Reportedly Wilks is a long shot to be retained, and the organization spoke with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh recently about the opening.

"I'm not really concerned about that," Wilks said. "My focus is just trying to win this week. My mindset just like the players' is to stay focused on staying focused.

"We want to finish on a positive note. It's always good when you can go into the offseason with a win and have confidence and propel that into the offseason. It means a lot, and I think our players understand that."

Head coach Dennis Allen is echoing a similar message about the Saints (7-9) this week. His team has won three consecutive games after they squandered a 13-point lead in the final three minutes of a 17-16 loss at Tampa Bay on Dec. 5.

That sent New Orleans into its bye week with an uphill climb and put the Bucs in control of the NFC South, which they won last week by beating the Panthers.

"We talked during the bye week about how we didn't control our playoff fate," Allen said. "That didn't work out. All we can control is how we finish. Our goal was to finish 4-0. We've accomplished three of those. We have one more opportunity.

"That's what you do as professionals -- compete to win the game -- and that's what I expect our team to do."

The Saints, who lost at Carolina 22-14 in Week 3, have ridden a resurgent defense to their strong finish. They beat the NFC-leading Eagles 20-10 last week in Philadelphia -- the fifth consecutive game in which they allowed fewer than 20 points.

Allen was promoted from defensive coordinator to replace Sean Payton in February. He earned the promotion by guiding one of the NFL's best defenses over the previous five seasons.

But Allen said becoming the head coach as well as turning over the coordinator responsibilities to the tandem of defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen and secondary coach Kris Richard required a transition period.

"What we're doing (on defense) has proven it can be successful in our league," Allen said. "Our guys stayed with it, and we're seeing the fruits of that labor now."

Six Saints starters missed practice Wednesday because of injury -- tackle Ryan Ramczyk (hip), who's not expected to play Sunday; cornerback Paulson Adebo (hamstring), who said he doesn't expect to play Sunday; tackle James Hurst (foot), guard Andrus Peat (ankle), tight end Juwan Johnson (quad) and safety Marcus Maye (shoulder).

The primary Panthers absence was defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis (back).

--Field Level Media

Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints

Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints Recap JAN 8TH 2023

Eddy Pineiro kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired and the visiting Carolina Panthers defeated the New Orleans Saints 10-7 Sunday afternoon.

Moments before Pineiro's kick, the Saints (7-10) missed an opportunity to take the lead when Wil Lutz's 55-yard field-goal attempt was blocked, giving the Panthers the ball at their 45 with 1:20 remaining.

After a sack, Sam Darnold ran for 13 yards, then Darnold, who had just 22 yards passing to that point, completed a 21-yarder to Terrace Marshall Jr. to set up the game-winner.

The Panthers (7-10) finished 6-6 under Steve Wilks, who was promoted from defensive coordinator to interim head coach when Matt Rhule was fired after a 1-4 start.

Carolina, which beat New Orleans 22-14 in Week 3, ended the Saints' three-game winning streak.

The Panthers had just 60 yards of total offense in the first half, but drove 82 yards in 14 plays on the first possession of the second half. On third and goal from the 3, Darnold fumbled inside the 1 and offensive lineman Michael Jordan recovered in the end zone for a touchdown that tied the score at seven.

The score remained tied through the end of the third quarter and well into the fourth. After a punt, the Panthers took over at their 13 with 1:47 remaining. Darnold tried a deep pass, but Daniel Sorensen intercepted at the Carolina 49 and returned to the 35. The Saints lost 2 yards in three plays, forcing Lutz to try from 55 yards.

On the first possession of the game the Saints drove 75 yards to a touchdown. Dalton threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Chris Olave, who on the play became the third rookie in New Orleans history to have 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie, joining Michael Thomas and Marques Colston.

The score stayed 7-0 into the second quarter and the Saints missed an opportunity to extend the lead when Lutz was wide left on a 44-yard field-goal attempt on the third play of the second quarter.

--Field Level Media