Vikings to face Brees, Saints in playoffs

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For the first time in the history of the New Orleans Saints, they play a team in the playoffs that they have already beaten twice in a season. The Saints defeated the St. Louis Rams, 31-28, on December 30, 2000, in the dome for their first-ever playoff win after splitting during the regular season.

If the Saints and Falcons advance, the NFC title game will be in the Superdome on Sunday Jan. 21 at 5:40 p.m. on FOX.

Prior to Ginn's touchdown, Carolina's defense had quarterback Drew Brees looking a little discombobulated, and had held the Saints to minus-9 yards of offense on its first two drives of the game. New Orleans is lead by a two-headed monster at running back between rookie standout Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.

The Odds: The Saints opened as a 6 point favorite and that line has actually moved north to 7.

The Panthers are unquestionably the most battle-tested team in the NFC playoffs with a roster consisting of players who have participated in 187 career postseason games.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who'd been playing through a right ankle sprain, said he'd told coach Mike Zimmer he'd do whatever he needed to do to get through the Vikings' final three regular season games, knowing a bye would await the Vikings if they won those games. The first matchup between the division rivals occurred all the way back in Week 3 when the Saints destroyed Carolina 34-13 for their first win of the season.

"I think this team is at its best when doubt is overwhelming against them", Shepard said on the Panthers website.

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"We take pride in being good at stopping the run", Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis said.

"You're talking about one of the better tight ends in the game and so not having him is significant and having him (in the previous games) is huge", Saints coach Sean Payton said.

Cam Newton rolled up to his weekly press conference, brow furrowed, and spoke of added focus.

Olsen missed nine games with a foot injury this season. They've got that part covered, by the looks of it. "What we were during the preseason wasn't a fluke; it's something we can truly be.' And we rolled with it from there", Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said of that Week 3 awakening.

He can't play like he did in a shocking 17-3 loss at Chicago in Week 7, when he got sacked five times, posted a 54.9 QB rating, provided a helping hand in two Bears defensive TDs and looked more and more disinterested with each squandered possession.

Saints: DE Trey Henderson (ankle), OL Terron Armstead (thigh) are QUESTIONABLE.

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