CHARLOTTE -- The New Orleans Saints will be looking to go into the offseason on a high note. The Carolina Panthers are looking to bounce back as they have all year.
Though it's not quite as important as playoff position, the Panthers are trying to hang onto their trend of not losing back-to-back games this season when they head to New Orleans on Sunday.
The Panthers also were able to keep consecutive losses off the board in 2005 when they made their run to the NFC Championship Game, but even 2003's Super Bowl team lost three straight down the stretch.
So after losing last week's home-field-advantage game at New York, the Panthers have to make sure they correct things this week to get into the playoffs pointing in the right direction.
"We haven't dropped two in a row, and I don't see us starting now," linebacker Na'il Diggs said. "Our attitude is still up. That game didn't put us out of the Super Bowl race. It didn't put us out of the playoffs. We learned a lot from that game more than anything.
"It's probably a wake-up call for us, maybe a little slap in the face to bring us back to reality."
A year ago, many pointed to New York's late-season loss to New England as the evidence the Giants needed to prove they could play with anyone. While the Giants got an emotional bump from that, quarterback Jake Delhomme said the Panthers didn't need a near-miss to prove they belonged.
"I don't think we ever in our mind thought that we couldn't," Delhomme said. "We've had four losses -- Atlanta, Tampa, Minnesota, Giants. Those are pretty good football teams. We've played some decent football. We've got a chance to maybe do some good things.
"Last year, that was the last game of the season for the Giants, and it gave them a lot of momentum going in. We still have another game left. We're a confident football team, and like anybody else, if we show up, we can do good things."
As for the Saints, they were effectively eliminated from postseason contention two weeks ago, but they're still trying to finish with a winning record.
Coach Sean Payton has been beating that drum all week, emphasizing to his team they can get a bounce off what happens Sunday.
"It's significant," Payton said of the difference between 9-7 and 8-8. "How you finish and having the chance to take some momentum into the next season is important. We talked about it last week as we got ready to play Detroit in what many people called a game that did not matter.
"Our players are looking forward to playing, and that's important."
• INJURY UPDATE: The Panthers might be without both starting defensive tackles, as Damione Lewis (shoulder) is listed as doubtful and Maake Kemoeatu (ankle) is questionable. Kemoeatu was limited again Friday and is far from a sure thing for Sunday's game.
If they aren't able to go, that leaves the Panthers extremely thin up front, with veteran backup Darwin Walker and a pair of guys who were on practice squads last week, Nick Hayden and J'Vonne Parker.
If those are the three available, coach John Fox said the Saints might well be tempted to break form and run.
"It's their ball, they get to do what they want," Fox said. "They might try to run it. If I was watching last week's tape, I might, too."
That was a reference to the 301 yards allowed to New York last week without Kemoeatu and without Lewis late.
Other than those two, the rest of the injury report was anticlimactic.
Wide receiver Kenny Moore (hamstring) is out again, and the rest are probable after practicing fully Friday: wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad (foot), tight ends Jeff King (knee) and Dante Rosario (illness) and defensive end Hilee Taylor (calf).
• JET LAG: The Panthers were able to roll the Saints when New Orleans came to Charlotte on Oct. 19. Granted, there was a fairly large mitigating factor at work.
The Sains left straight from Charlotte for their game in London against San Diego, kicking off a stretch of 43 days without a game in the Superdome. The game in England was considered a home game, then they had a bye and games at Atlanta and Kansas City.
That might explain the two turnovers Carolina converted into touchdowns, in a relatively easy 30-7 win. Payton still sounded weary when he said that game "seems like a year ago."
"I would love to use that as an excuse, but in fairness to Carolina and the way that game unfolded, we got beat," Payton said. "We turned the ball over, we gave up big plays defensively and did the things that keep you from winning games in this league."