By now, the Carolina Panthers mantra for how they prepare to face each opponent This game is the most important because its the next has become more of a broken record.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera and a number of his players repeat it at least once each week.
Whether the players or the fans believed it or not in previous weeks, it holds true this week. The rematch between the Panthers (10-4) and Saints (10-4) will go a long way in deciding who wins the NFC South, gets a top-two seed, a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game.
I really do believe they understand (the magnitude), Rivera said. One of the things I told them today, weve gone through it every week. In our situation and circumstances, with San Francisco the way they are, with Arizona the way they are, and with the situation with the Saints, every game has been important.
Every ones important and thats the way you have to approach it. They are important. We could have lost any of the games weve played and been in dire straits, and we havent. I really do think they understand.
With a win, the Panthers clinch a playoff berth and are in the drivers seat for the division title. A loss would mean Carolina would fall back into the wild card mix with the 49ers and Cardinals before facing Atlanta in the season finale.
Veteran linebacker Thomas Davis said he and his teammates understand the situation, and they arent bothering themselves with the various playoff scenarios.
As it stands right now, were not in the playoffs, he said. As a team we understand that, and we know that we control our own destiny. Thats the good part about it. Were not sitting back like some of these other teams waiting on somebody else to lose and waiting on this happen.
We know if we go out and take care of business as a team and we get done what were supposed to get done then none of that matters.
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