Riveras last stand
Panthers second-year coach Ron Rivera has been twisting in the wind for 10 weeks since owner Jerry Richardson gave him the edict to trend upward or risk suffering the same fate as former general manager Marty Hurney. The Panthers are 5-4 since Hurney was fired and are riding their first three-game winning streak since 2009. But Rivera is 1-12 in games decided by a touchdown or less, including an 0-7 mark this season. Beating the Saints to finish 7-9 might be enough for Rivera to keep his job.
Brees chasing another record
Saints coach Sean Payton angered the Panthers in Week 17 last season by keeping quarterback Drew Brees and his other starters in through the fourth quarter to pursue team and individual records in the Saints 45-17 victory. Brees threw for 389 yards to distance himself from Tom Brady for the leagues single-season passing yardage mark. Brees is within reach of another record Sunday: He needs 219 yards to become the first quarterback with 5,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. Carolina would love to spoil his day.
Keeping Cam upright
The Panthers could be without three starting offensive linemen if center Geoff Hangartner misses his third game in a row with a sprained foot. Center Ryan Kalil has been out since October, while left guard Amini Silatolu went down with a wrist injury last week against Oakland. Carolina struggled to protect Cam Newton after Silatolu left the game, getting him sacked twice and knocked down 11 times. The Saints dont have a fierce pass rush. But its essential for the line to keep them off Newton if the Panthers want to win. Joseph Person