"I know Greg's status as a player in this league is a lot of what he does catching the ball and running routes. But he's a huge part of our run game, and time and time again I see him come down and collapse pretty impressive defensive ends.
"Also, too, his smarts. He does a lot of directing out on the field. ... He's somebody that is a game-changing type player, especially for our offense."
Olsen missed nine games this season with a foot injury, including both tilts versus the Saints. Without his security blanket, Newton struggled to move the ball against New Orleans. Carolina hopes having the tight end on the field Sunday will take pressure off a depleted wide receiver corps.
"Greg, man, he opens it up for everybody," receiver Russell Shepard said. "It enables the rest of the offense to kind of have one-on-one matchups, and being able to win those matchups."
Olsen and Newton struggled to find their connection this season outside of one game. In Week 15 versus Green Bay, Olsen earned nine catches for 116 yards and a TD. In six other games, he has eight catches for 75 yards. Last week's loss to Atlanta was particularly brutal for the Olsen-Newton connection: 10 targets, 1 catch, 10 yards, 1 INT.
Both Olsen and the team brushed aside last week's anomaly and believe he could be the difference in Sunday's playoff showdown in New Orleans.
"Well, I think they'll be OK," coach Ron Rivera said Thursday. "They've worked a lot the last few weeks just to get on the same page. Again, Greg was out for a while and hadn't really had an opportunity to work, and they've got to get that familiarity back."