You can't blame him for not knowing.

His focus this week is on the Saints and the Saints alone.">
You can't blame him for not knowing.

His focus this week is on the Saints and the Saints alone.">

INSIDE SLANT

So what will it take for the Panthers to make the playoffs this week, Jake Delhomme?<br><br> "I think it's something like if Seattle wins and we win we're in good shape," Delhomme said. "And somebody else could lose and then there's somebody else that could lose and if they don't serve this or that at pregame meals we've got a chance. I don't know ..."<br><br> You can't blame him for not knowing.<br><br> His focus this week is on the Saints and the Saints alone.

"Well, you know what, we've got to go win," Delhomme said. "If we win, then come right here and we'll talk Sunday afternoon about it. Because, really, it's a moot point unless we get our job done."

That's basically the philosophy of the Panthers as they try to become the first NFL team to rebound from a 1-7 start to make the playoffs.

Of course, that won't keep some players from peeking at the out-of-town scores during the game.

"We don't want to make that our focus, and you don't want any distractions to take away from the task at hand, which is beating the New Orleans Saints," cornerback Artrell Hawkins said. "But in the back of your mind you will be wondering what's going on with the two games."

The Panthers will make the playoffs with any of these scenarios on Sunday:

1. A Carolina win over New Orleans combined with a Minnesota loss to Washington.

2. A Carolina win or tie against New Orleans combined with a St. Louis loss or tie to the New York Jets.

3. A Carolina win over New Orleans combined with a Seattle win or tie against the Atlanta Falcons.

While Carolina is playing New Orleans, two other 1 p.m. EST games with a major impact on the Panthers' playoff possibilities will be in progress across the country.

In Landover, Md., the Redskins will battle the Vikings, while in St. Louis, the Rams will face the New York Jets. The Panthers need either the Vikings or Rams to lose.

If neither of those occurs, the players will have to wait around Bank of America Stadium for a while should host Seattle beat the Falcons in a 4:15 p.m. EST game.

Panthers head coach John Fox said Wednesday that he'll allow out-of-town NFL scores to be posted on the scoreboard Sunday.

In the past, some NFL coaches have turned out the lights, so to speak, not wanting their team to get distracted by other games and lose focus on the task at hand, which is beating their opponent.

"We've (posted scores) all year, so I don't see why we would change that," Fox said.

If the Panthers get into the playoffs, there's no telling how far they might go.

They've already proved they can play with Atlanta, and conventional thinking suggests that the fact Terrell Owens is likely out for the season brings the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles back to the rest of the field.

If the Panthers win Sunday, they will have won seven of their last eight and will have plenty of momentum on their side, even if many of their top players are on injured reserve.

In the NFL, momentum can be a dangerous thing. Just look at the 2003 Panthers.

"Nobody wants us to get in there, I know that much," safety Mike Minter said. "And if we do get in there, then there are going to be a whole lot of teams that don't want to see the Panthers." The Panthers shouldn't have any problem focusing this week.

They know if they win on Sunday, they have a chance. And he knows if they don't, they go home -- no matter what Minnesota, St. Louis or Seattle do on Sunday.

"That's why I won't look at the scoreboard -- because I don't want to have Deuce McAllister running up and down the field on us and Joe Horn catching touchdowns left and right," said defensive tackle Brentson Buckner. "I worry about the Saints. The only scoreboard I will be looking at on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium is the one with the Panthers and Saints on it.

"Take care of your own business and if it's meant to be, then it's meant to be."

SERIES HISTORY: 20th meeting. Panthers lead series 10-9. The Panthers have won the last four meetings, including a 32-21 win on Dec. 5 at the Superdome. In that game, kicker John Kasay set a team record with six field goals, and Muhsin Muhammad had 10 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers.

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