Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are about to close the book on a season that may forever be defined by the word ''bounty.'' They want to do it by avoiding the ''losing team'' label, even if the playoffs are out of reach.
The Panthers had no such scandal overshadowing their season, only the disappointment of failing to reach expectations that may have been unfairly high after Cam Newton's stellar rookie campaign. Still, Carolina has won three straight and four out of five, offering hope that one productive offseason may be all the Panthers and their talented, dual-threat quarterback need to become contenders again.
So when the Saints (7-8) and Panthers (6-9) meet Sunday, what might otherwise look like an anticlimactic season finale between two teams going nowhere will mean much more to the players and coaches involved.
''You want to go out and play your absolute best and really feel good about our team, the way we were able to finish and the future despite not meeting some o...