If you're a Carolina follower, you know how much it stung to have a good finish to the season marred by such a blowout against New Orleans: after playing them close earlier in the season, they tied 17 before the Saints mercilessly scored 28 unanswered points and went on to set numerous offensive records.
That should stick in the front office's mind as well, looking to revitalize a defense that hasn't been good since 2009, which itself wasn't dominant. Coach Ron Rivera has pledged to work more with Sean McDermott's defense, something many feared he'd have done too much with (and certainly didn't, hopefully - meaning the room to grow is legitimate).
It looked like the Saints were doing a decent job of remaining competitive, switching out defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for a counterpart of McDermott and Rivera's, Steve Spagnuolo, which is an upgrade. It also looked like they'd have a good chance at keeping their team together.
But, the Saints appear to be doing a decent job of dismantling themselves suddenly. A franchise tag on Drew Brees means they might not be able to come to an agreement on a deal - tying up more cap space in the meantime - and that may mean that guard Carl Nicks, WRs Marques Colston, Robert Meacham, and a number of defensive linemen will have a better shot at reaching free agency.
But the most interesting bit is the story on bounties, brought in by Williams and apparently funneled through Sean Payton and at least one outside benefactor. The penalties are likely to be severe (potential suspensions, likely picks forfeited, and who knows what else), but are undetermined as of yet.
The end result is that no matter what happens, if the Saints have Brees, they'll be powerful. But, take away the inside presence of Nicks, remove the big bodies of Colston/Meacham to leave just speed guys on the outside, and neuter Payton's ability to get Spagnuolo the specialized players he'll require? They don't stand the chance of being top contenders anymore.