The Saints can win the division title by beating Tampa Bay beginning Sunday afternoon at 3:25 in the Mercedes Benz Superdome coupled with an Atlanta Falcons upset of Carolina in the Georgia Dome.
Luckily New Orleans is a perfect 7 and 0 on the home turf but only 3 and 5 on the road.
A win automatically locks up a playoff spot for the Saints.
Rookie offensive tackle Terron Armstead got the starting nod in Sunday's game and gave up 3 of the 6 sacks on quarterback Drew Brees. Will Armstead get a second straight starting assignment against the Bucs on Sunday?
Sean Payton said,"Absolutely. Grading him out, I think, and I've ready a handful of different articles about his performance. Certainly there are growing pains, but there are a lot of things that he did very well. I think as a staff going through the tape now twice, I was extremely encouraged by the way he played."
Coach Payton said rookie defensive back Kenny Vaccaro is finished for the season. He will undergo surgery on Tuesday in Charlotte with Dr. Anderson to repair a fractured ankle suffered in the loss to the Panthers.
Sunday's last second drive by Cam Newton took the air out of Saints fans who were feeling good after Brees guided New Orleans 97 yards late in the 4th quarter to grab a 13-10 lead. Brees hooked up with Jimmy Graham for the go ahead score.
The Saints defense that corralled Panthers quarterback Cam Newton most of the day, failed to put the clamps on the former Heisman Trophy winner. He led Carolina in the final 55 seconds on a 65 yard game winning touchdown drive, propelling the Panthers atop the NFC South Division with 11 wins and 4 losses, dropping New Orleans to 10 and 5.
Payton wasn't discouraged by the loss.
He said,"We control one thing. We know if we're able to go out and play well and win, we're guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. I think overall the attitude has been upbeat."
Christmas is only two days away and Saints fans would love for a belated Christmas present on Sunday, well maybe two... a Saints victory over Tampa Bay and a Falcons win over the Panthers.
If that happens New Orleans would claim the NFC South Division title and a bye in the first-round of the playoffs. If both New Orleans and Carolina win, the Panthers would clinch the division title.
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