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Panthers embarrass Saints, move closer in NFC South

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The Carolina Panthers are alive and well in the NFC South division race after embarrassing the Saints in a 41-10 win at the Superdome on Sunday. Our takeaways:

1. There has never been a repeat champion in the NFC South. The Panthers, almost impossibly, can still be the first team to pull it off. Carolina dominated Sunday from the kickoff onward, rolling over New Orleans with 271 rushing yards. The game was over when Jonathan Stewart took a Cam Newton handoff and rumbled 69 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-3 one minute into the third quarter.

2. Outside of Bountygate, this represents the low point of the Sean Payton era. The Saints looked unprepared and uninspired, and a lot of the blame has to fall on the coach. New Orleans has now lost four consecutive games at the Superdome, which is pretty hard to believe.

3. Cam finally looks like a healthy quarterback, playing his best all-around game of the season. Newton threw three touchdown passes, zero interceptions and added 83 yards and a touchdown on the ground. If Newton is back to his old self, the Panthers have a shot at this.

4. Jimmy Graham has disappeared from the Saints' offense. A week after being shut out against the Steelers, the All-Pro tight end had just three catches for 25 yards against the Panthers. Fantasy owners weep.

5. Hard to figure out why Drew Brees was still getting hit by Carolina defenders in the fourth quarter. Stats shouldn't be that important.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Sunday game from Week 14 and discusses the Seahawks' return to Super Bowl form. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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