Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

December 27, 2018 at 1:43 am.

Untested QB Allen gets start for Panthers

It keeps getting worse for the Carolina Panthers, who return to the Superdome in New Orleans where their season will end for the second time in as many seasons.

Last year, it came in the NFC playoffs.

This time, it’s the season finale against the New Orleans Saints.

The Panthers (6-9) have lost seven games in a row, though they weren’t eliminated from playoff contention until Sunday’s home setback to the Atlanta Falcons.

They played that game without quarterback Cam Newton, who’s nursing a shoulder ailment. They’ll play their last game of the season with yet another new quarterback after Taylor Heinicke was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with an injured left elbow. Kyle Allen, who relieved the injured Heinicke Sunday, will make his first NFL start in the season finale against New Orleans.

Much of this week is about farewells or potential farewells for the Panthers.

The game in New Orleans will be the last for retiring center Ryan Kalil. It could mark the end of the careers for veteran defensive end Julius Peppers and linebacker Thomas Davis.

If nothing else, the Panthers have those guys to play for.

“You want to send guys out on the right note,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “These guys are the types of guys that deserve it. They are good football players. They have had great careers for this organization.”

Rivera’s status has been in question, though reports suggest that new owner David Tepper is inclined to keep the coach around for another season.

“The disappointment obviously is that we haven’t won,” Rivera said. “I get that. I understand. We are in the business of winning.”

The Panthers have never produced back-to-back winning seasons.

Heinicke was battered around in his first career start in the home finale against Atlanta. He gutted it out and made it to the end, but afterward declined to discuss his physical condition. Sure enough, he was deemed out for the season finale and that means that Allen, an undrafted rookie out of the University of Houston, is next in line as he filled in during the second quarter of Heinicke in the Atlanta game.

The Panthers have brought back Garrett Gilbert by signing him for this game. He spent time in training camp with the team before the cuts to 53 players and for a while seemed like the likely backup to Newton before Heinicke landed that role. Gilbert was on the 2017 practice squad and also activated at times.

Running back Christian McCaffrey needs four receiving yards to join New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara to become the only two players in NFL history with 1,500 career rushing yards and 1,500 career receiving yards in their first two seasons.

The Panthers and Saints meet for the second time in less than two weeks. The Dec. 17 encounter in Charlotte was on a Monday night, though this game won’t generate nearly as much attention with neither team playing with much at stake.

When Carolina held a 6-2 record, it looked like the meetings with the Saints might be monumental clashes, but it didn’t turn out that way.

New Orleans (13-2) has wrapped up the top seed in the NFC for the playoffs and the Saints will have a bye on the opening weekend of the postseason.

SERIES HISTORY: 48th regular-season meeting. Panthers lead series, 24-23. The Saints won 12-9 on Dec. 17 in Charlotte. New Orleans goes for a season sweep in back-to-back seasons after winning three times last season, including the lone postseason meeting. Each of the last four meetings has gotten closer, with results of 34-13, 31-21 and, in last season’s playoffs, 31-26 before the matchup earlier this month.