New Orleans went 11-5 this year to win the NFC South for the first time since 2011 and stop a streak of three consecutive 7-9 seasons.
If the Panthers hope to win, they must find a way to limit not only Kamara but the entire rushing attack orchestrated by coach Sean Payton and the Saints.
Coverage of this game airs on FOX beginning at 4:40 pm ET on Sunday from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Minnesota had a chance to set up a game-winning field goal in the final minute of the fourth quarter and advance to Super Bowl XLIV, but then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre infamously threw an interception with under 15 seconds to play, and the Saints went on to win in overtime.
Well, this season the New Orleans Saints have been running the ball much more than ever, terrorizing the league with the NFL's top running back tandem: Alvin Kamara and former Heisman Trophy victor Mark Ingram. As the Panthers prepare to visit their division rivals in New Orleans this weekend, Newton's ability to succeed in the passing game will be the contest's crucial factor.
This game will mark the third time New Orleans has faced a divisional opponent in the playoffs.
Lattimore and fellow Saints defenders not only have to address their recent back-sliding as a unit, but also for the presence of star Carolina tight end Greg Olsen, who didn't play in either of these teams' previous two meetings this season. The biggest key is for the Panthers to get the ground game going.
So, there's that, and the Saints are a touchdown favorite over a team they dominated twice.More news: Knox County Health Department offers free flu vaccinations
In the two meetings between these teams this year New Orleans won 34-13 and 31-21. "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 played in Carolina's last four regular season games, with as many as nine receptions in one game.
Payton, who is 6-4 in the playoffs as Saints coach, is trying to maintain a fresh approach as well.
Cam Newton rolled up to his weekly press conference, brow furrowed, and spoke of added focus.
Stewart sat out last week's 22-10 loss to Atlanta with back soreness.
"We take pride in being good at stopping the run", Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis said.
"[It's] being able to have extra time to get treatment, to get massages and take advantage of the resources you have at your house: rolling out, stretching, things like that", wide receiver Adam Thielen said.
Saints: DE Trey Henderson (ankle), OL Terron Armstead (thigh) are QUESTIONABLE.