The Carolina Panthers will roll into town, and the Saints will look to hand the Panthers their first loss of the season. This should be the toughest matchup the Saints have had all season. This Panthers team has proven to be more than a joke, and they are arguably the best team in the NFL (Patriots?). This matchup will be tough for multiple reasons.
The Saints are looking to rebound from their worst offensive performance of the year. The New Orleans Saints only managed to score 6 points. Yup, you read that right, 6 points! According to ESPN, this game snapped the streak of 155 straight games with a touchdown. The offense only produced 268 yards; 218 of these yards were passing yards. It was quite evident that Brees was not comfortable in the pocket. The Texans’ ferocious pass rush did a good job of getting to Brees.
This week the Saints get the 2nd-ranked defense with the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers present a completely different set of challenges. They have one of the best groups of linebackers in the league. Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are some of the best in the league. Thus far they have tallied 75 and 74 tackles respectively. They are more than capable of getting to the quarterback as they have sacked the opposing quarterback 33 times this year. On the other hand, their offensive line has only given up 21 sacks this season. Their secondary is headlined by Kurt Coleman, Roman Harper, Charles Tillman, and Josh Norman. Josh Norman has emerged as one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. He has been successful in locking down some of the game’s best receivers. Earlier in the year, Brandin Cooks was able to catch 7 balls for 79 yards; however, many of his yards were gained when not matched up one-on-one with Norman. Josh Norman also intercepted what would have been the game-winning touchdown pass.
Fortunately for the Saints, CB Charles Tillman will be out for this game. The Saints notably classified WR Willie Snead as doubtful to play. He has emerged out of nowhere and has become a fan-favorite. Snead has been a big part of the offense as he has caught for 676 yards. The absence could play an especially large role as Brandin Cooks will likely be shut down by Josh Norman.
The Saints defense will also have a big challenge this Sunday. Despite the fact that the Panthers have the 19th-ranked offense in yards, they present a unique set of challenges. They average 30.2 points a game; a part of this is a result of touchdowns by their defense. Cameron Newton is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league. What makes him special is his ability to run a zone read. He runs the ball extremely well. He also finds himself scrambling often, and many of these plays turn into large gains.
The Saints defense has been atrocious this year. They now rank 31st in the league, but hey, it is an improvement. Last week they looked much improved after their first two drives. LB Dannell Ellerbe looks set to return this week from a lingering hip injury. He has proven to be a valuable asset when healthy. The Saints have ruled out NT John Jenkins with a concussion. CB Damian Swann will likely return as well after suffering two concussions this season. The defense this Sunday may be the healthiest we will see them all year.
LT Terron Armstead and RG Jahri Evans have been listed as questionable. If they do indeed miss the game, the Saints will have more problems than usual on the offensive line. Terron Armstead has been one of the best tackles in the NFL this season.
It will be interesting to see how the offense comes out this Sunday. Is it possible we see more C.J. Spiller? No one truly knows, but if the Saints want any chance of winning this game, the offense will have to play better than they did last week. I expect more improvement from the defense as the additions of Dannell Ellerbe and Damian Swann should be significant.
I would love to see the Saints play spoiler and hand Carolina their first loss of the season. If you remember, the Saints beat the at-the-time undefeated Falcons in the Superdome, and the Falcons have spiraled in many ways. Look, the Panthers will make the playoffs, but I sure would like to see them lose in their first game. The Saints have a chance to shake things up for this Panthers team. Despite the fact that I would love to see the Saints win, my realistic self doesn’t see it happening. My final score prediction is 27-13 Panthers. I expect the defense to continue to improve, but it won’t be enough. Drew Brees will also throw an interception that is returned for a touchdown.
Let’s see the Saints get this win, and WHO DAT!