Originally posted on The Saints Nation  |  Last updated 12/30/11

This is the final regular season game as the Carolina Panthers come to town. It should be a tightly contested game as the first time these two clubs faced each other it was won on the last drive the Saints had the ball. I expect this game to go two ways: either the Saints will play to win or they will rest their starters and the game will be in question but it all depends on what the 49ers do in their contest against the Rams. In this article I thought since we are coming off the Christmas holidays I would write it like my favorite Christmas book "A Christmas Carol" detailing Carolina’s season past, present and future.

The Past

The previous game against the Saints, the Panthers were coming into the game 1-3 . In their three losses they were in each game but they couldn’t close the deal as they were still coming into their own. It was a back and forth affair as neither the Saints or the Panthers could take control of the game in their first matchup. I came away from that game very impressed by Cam Newton as he almost won that game by himself. The only thing standing in Newton’s way that game was the field general on the other side, Drew Brees who would not leave Charlotte without a victory .

The Present

After the loss to the Saints, the Panthers would go on to lose three of four bringing their record to 2-8. In a small turnaround the Panthers have reeled off four wins in the last five games coming into this game with the Saints. It should have been five in a row if not for the game that got away in week 14 losing to the Falcons. Carolina went into halftime leading 23-7 but was unable to score any points in the second half as the Falcons came back to win 31-23. The last two wins have been impressive as they have come against the Texans and the Bucs. In the win against the Bucs Cam Newton set the new record for most yards passing by a rookie as he overtook Peyton Manning in the record books.

The Future

This is the last game for the Panthers this weekend as they are out of the playoff picture but they can go to New Orleans to play spoiler and build something heading into next season. Looking up and down the Panthers' roster they have some key building blocks to be a successful NFL team. They have their franchise quarterback in Cam Newton but they have to be able to put other playmakers around him going forward. I also think with a young team the Panthers are thin along both offensive and defensive lines and I would look for the Panthers to stockpile them in the upcoming draft and in free agency. This is a team on the rise and will give the Saints and the rest of the NFL fits in the coming years but it will be up to the Panthers organization on how far they can go, just ask the Tampa Bay Bucs how a promising team can slip away in one season.

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