Ron Rivera wishes Panthers' Week 17 game time wasn't pushed back

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera would have preferred Sunday's regular-season finale against Tampa Bay hadn't been flexed to a later kickoff at 4:25 p.m.

With the start time moved back, the Panthers-Bucs game will be played at the same time as the game between the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.

The Panthers (14-1) and Cardinals (13-2) are playing for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Carolina gets the top seed in the NFC with a victory.

Had the Panthers-Bucs game not been rescheduled, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians would have the advantage of knowing whether he could rest players based on the Panthers outcome.

"That's kind of a tough deal, because whether you rest players or you don't based on what happens, to me, that should be your option,'' Rivera said on Tuesday. "I know the league has got to do what it feels is best for television. But if I was in that situation, I would rather be able to know.

"To me, that's a valuable decision you have to make as a head coach. I'd rather make the decision rather than have somebody make it for me."

Rivera insisted he won't keep an eye on what is happening in the Arizona game, and "I can't imagine it being any different" for the Cardinals.

Rivera said that even if the Panthers hadn't lost to Atlanta on Sunday and had home-field advantage locked up, his strategy for Tampa Bay was going to be the same.

"We're going to play to win," he said.

Rivera said the players, general manager Dave Gettleman and team owner Jerry Richardson agreed that is the best strategy.

"These guys are professional athletes,'' Rivera said. "They know they get paid well to do something. Well, let's play.''

Rivera said he never sensed his players felt the pressure of playing for a perfect season before Sunday's setback.

"I was just thinking everything we did we were playing to win,'' he said. "That's why we took it so hard losing to Atlanta, because we were playing to win.''