Panthers busy scouting opponents

After three days of what coach John Fox called "zippy work" in practice, the Carolina Panthers are taking the weekend off to rest and await the identity of their opponent for next Saturday's home playoff game.

The Panthers (12-4) have a first-round bye and will play Arizona or Minnesota, depending on the outcome of this weekend's games.

"We'll have good familiarity there," Fox said, referring to the fact the Panthers have played both teams this season and have a 1-1 record.

"When we get into the game plan, they'll be as familiar with us as we are with them."

Most, if not all, of the Panthers' players and coaches planned to watch the Falcons-Cardinals game and the Minnesota-Philadelphia game today.

"It's kind of like an easy way to study film, to watch the games," said linebacker Jon Beason.

Receiver Muhsin Muhammad said he plans to "scout out some opponents."

"I've got some things in my mind that I'd like to see, but we'll just have to watch and see what happens," Muhammad said.

Because the New York Giants have the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the Panthers have the second seed, the Giants will play the lowest-seeded team.

If Philadelphia (No. 6) beats the Vikings (No. 3), the Giants will play the Eagles next week.

But if Minnesota wins, the Vikings will face Carolina and the Giants will play Cardinals, who beat Atlanta Saturday.

However, regardless of how the opening weekend goes, Beason and Muhammad are hoping the Panthers win their first playoff game and then get to host the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium.

For that to happen, the Giants would have to lose their Jan. 11 game at home.

The Panthers don't want to get ahead of themselves, however.

That would be against the culture of the NFL and the singular focus Fox teaches.

Beason said he yearns for a championship, which so far has alluded him in football.

"I've played some big bowl games (in college) and a state championship (game) in high school was huge," he said.

"Coming out on the short end of that, this is an opportunity to get over the hump.

"It's all about being a champion at the end of the day."