- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In case you're still wondering what the Carolina Panthers (10-4) need to do to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday, here are the scenarios:
Beat New Orleans: A victory over the Saints (10-4) at Bank of America Stadium clinches a wild-card spot and puts the Panthers in position to win the NFC South title and a first-round bye in the playoffs with a victory at Atlanta the following week.
Carolina tie and Arizona loss: Ties aren't likely, but Arizona (9-5) has a good chance to lose since the Cardinals are at Seattle, which hasn't lost at home in two years with Russell Wilson at quarterback.
Carolina tie and San Francisco loss: Not the most likely scenario since the 49ers (10-4) play host to the lowly Atlanta Falcons in what could be the final game at Candlestick Park.
Arizona loss and San Francisco loss: Again, Arizona has the toughest challenge here. It would be stunning to see the 49ers lose.
In other words, Carolina's best and probably only realistic chance to clinch is to beat the Saints.