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Rivera, Panthers preparing to close out season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – No matter the outcome Sunday, Carolina’s trip to New Orleans should bring a merciful end to a once-promising season. The Panthers went 3-1 in the preseason and were 6-2 after a win, 42-28, in Tampa Bay on Nov. 4. 

The Panthers’ offense looked like it could attack from all angles. The defense wasn’t perfect, but it made plays that kept games within reach. Both of Carolina’s losses through the first eight games were by one possession.

Then it all came unraveled. The Panthers have lost seven in a row. Quarterback Cam Newton — among man others — is sidelined. Playoff hopes evaporated rather quickly as the losing stream continued to build, and mounting injuries didn’t help the cause.

“It is what it is,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “There’s nothing you can do about it other than get the next guy ready to play, and that’s about it. I think, if it shows you anything, it shows you how thin the (NFL) is in terms of reserves.”

There’s a chance the Saints also won’t be fully staffed, but for a different reason. At 13-2 and one of the top Super Bowl contenders, they may opt to rest some key players. Drew Brees will be one getting the weekend off as Saints coach Sean Payton said Teddy Bridgewater will start Sunday.

There’s no telling how much the likes of Alvin Kamara will play on Sunday. Rivera said, no matter what, they’re preparing to face the best the Saints have to offer.

“(The Saints) are a good football team. They’ve got a lot of playmakers, and we’ve got to be ready to play them,” he said.

Carolina held those playmakers to one touchdown two weeks ago, but its offense couldn’t muster any more than a first-quarter touchdown in a 12-9 loss.

Sunday’s game is set to kick off at 1 p.m.

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