Like most NFL coaches, Ron Rivera lives by the mantra that the next game is the most important game. With the Carolina Panthers heading into a critical game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, his philosophy has never been more applicable in his three seasons.
A win puts the Panthers (10-4) in the driver’s seat for the NFC South title and a first-round bye. A loss means the team would be fighting for a Wildcard spot at best. When asked if the team was treating the game as a playoff, Rivera was frank.
“It most certainly should be treated like one, because that’s what it is. The next two games, as far as I’m concerned, are exactly that,” he said. “This one is about as big as it gets, and it’s going to be the biggest one we’ve played so far.”
The Panthers will host the Saints (10-4) just two weeks after suffering a 31-13 loss on Sunday Night Football. They rebounded on Sunday with a 30-13 win over the New York Jets, setting the stage for a decisive showdown against the Saints, who lost 27-16 to the St. Louis Rams.
Rivera said though he and his team know what is at stake, they are focused solely on beating the Saints.
“I’m really trying to stay focused. I don’t talk about it openly, that’s for sure, because I want to make sure our players are focused on this game.”
The Saints come in having lost their last two consecutive road games. Rivera said he hopes the home fans will continue to provide his team with support as they have done all season.
“It’s been exciting,” he said. “Our fans have really responded, but we’ve also given them a reason to. “