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McCaffrey, Kamara key for Panthers, Saints tonight

Published:Sunday | December 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Carolina Panthers' Christian McCaffrey (right) avoids the tackle of Seattle Seahawks' Tedric Thompson during the first half of an NFL game in Charlotte, North Carolina on Sunday, November 25, 2018. The Panthers play the New Orleans Saints tonight. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek, File)

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP):

There's been no such thing as a sophomore slump for Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara.

The two NFC South running backs have followed up strong rookie campaigns with even better second seasons for the Panthers and Saints, who will meet tonight in a game with big play-off ramifications for both teams.

McCaffrey has 926 yards rushing and 701 yards receiving. He has a chance to join Roger Craig and Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk as the only running backs in NFL history to post 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season.

Kamara, the 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year, has 1,384 yards from scrimmage and needs five scores in the final three weeks for a 20-touchdown season.

"They're both highly versatile players," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees. "So, great in the run game. They've got great instincts and a great feel for making cuts, breaking tackles, just a level of elusiveness that's pretty unique. And then their ability to catch balls and really be receivers outside the pocket is very unique as well."

The only difference in the two this season has been in the win-loss column. The Panthers and Saints have been heading in opposite directions since early November.

Carolina (6-7) have lost five straight - despite 747 total yards and eight touchdowns from McCaffrey during that span - and are in dire need of a win to keep their slim play-off hopes alive. Kamara and backfield mate Mark Ingram have New Orleans (11-2) out in front in the NFC and looking to stay a step ahead of the Los Angeles Rams in the battle for the top seed and home-field advantage in the play-offs.

Both teams will be counting on their all-purpose backs down the stretch.