Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera says his team's NFC South game against the New Orleans Saints is "about as big as it gets".
Both teams share identical 10-4 records with two games remaining - meaning the winner is likely to go on an secure a spot in the divisional round of the play-offs, leaving the loser fighting for a Wild Card entry.
The Saints had appeared to be in pole position having beaten the Panthers 31-13 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome earlier this month, but a poor defeat against the St. Louis Rams has thrown the division wide open.
Billed as a winner-takes-all showdown, Rivera says he side are ready for the game which he describes as "about as big as it gets."
"We get right back in the saddle and get to compete against them," Rivera said. "We don't have to wait two or three weeks down the line."
When they met on December 9, the Saints were able to march straight through the Panthers and throttle Cam Newton, while Saints quarterback Drew Brees was able to take his sweet time as he threw 313 yards and four touchdowns.
The Panthers bounced back with a convincing 20-30 win over the New York Jets last weekend - and now it's a winner-takes-all shoot-out with the Saints for the NFC South lead and the upper hand in the race to secure a play-off spot.
The Panthers have won six straight at home and will be confident despite being rocked at the Superdome, and Saints coach Sean Payton says he has some questions to answer ahead of next Sunday following the defeat against the Rams.
I'd like to be able to pinpoint one specific thing and say we're going to change this one element and all of a sudden play better" on the road, he said.
"Historically during our years here we have been a very good road team."
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