The teams meet again at 3:40 p.m. Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and New Orleans is largely treating the rematch like the first two games against the Panthers never happened.
“Everyone is starting from scratch,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “The only thing that you pay attention to is, obviously, a division opponent, the personnel and the things that you didn’t do well in the early two games, maybe the things you did well.”
New Orleans turned around its season with the first win over Carolina, a 34-13 shellacking in the Panthers’ own stadium Sept. 24, then essentially clinched the NFC South by running away from Carolina 31-21 in the rematch between the two teams in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Dec. 3.
In reality, both teams look different heading Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff than they did in either of the first two. For starters, the Saints will have rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore; Carolina counters with the presence of noted New Orleans-killer Greg Olsen, now fully healthy at tight end.
“A lot of things change and it’s a new team,” center Max Unger said. “It’s the playoffs. You can kind of throw the regular-season record out.”