CHARLOTTE – The Panthers and Saints enter Week 6 with one victory apiece, and both believe securing win No. 2 on Sunday can kick-start their season.
"Two teams that are desperate," tight end Greg Olsen said. "For a game with two teams that have only one win, this is as big as it gets."
New Orleans is coming off its bye week, and Carolina is heading into its bye after battling a division foe for the third time in three weeks.
"It would be big for us," linebacker Luke Kuechly said of earning a victory against the Saints. "You want to go into the bye on a positive note. It's going to be a tough task for us, but we're excited for it."
The Panthers should be boosted by the return of the reigning NFL MVP and their workhorse running back. Quarterback Cam Newton practiced all week after missing last week's game with a concussion. Pro Bowl running back Jonathan Stewart is also expected to play after missing the previous three games with a hamstring injury.
"Just knowing how good we are, it's frustrating to see the losses," Stewart said. "We just have to keep continuing to get better. The only thing we can do is look forward."
Carolina's defense, meanwhile, faces the annual tall task of slowing down the high-powered Saints passing attack in the Superdome. It will be another major test for a secondary still finding its way and missing two starting cornerbacks – James Bradberry (foot) and Robert McClain (hamstring).
"Any time you have Drew Brees down in that dome they're dangerous. Not a whole lot needs to be said about their offense," Kuechly said. "They've been way up there in offensive rankings since I can remember, and they do a great job in the dome of getting tempo and moving quickly and putting points up."
Many have already counted the Panthers out, and head coach Ron Rivera said he'll gladly use that as motivation this week and beyond. Overall, he feels the players are upbeat and ready for the challenges in front of them.
"I feel great about the mindset. These guys are learning, they're growing," Rivera said. "I get it, when you're not playing well and lose a few games, everything is tough. Food doesn't taste as good, music doesn't sound as good – that's just the way it is.
"What you've got to do is fight through it, keep fighting. And when you start getting things turned around, you've got to roll with it and keep it going. It's a mentality that you have to have."
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED
Week 13: Saints vs. Panthers