Both teams are coming off unexpected losses and should come in ready for this potentially explosive matchup.
The Saints need to do a better job stopping opposing offenses if they plan on staying atop the improving NFC South this season. And the Panthers will need to find their identity and stick to it on a consistent basis.
New Orleans couldn’t contain Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III on its own home turf. And while their offense was productive, Drew Brees and the Saints made costly mistakes that typically aren’t indicative of their performance recently.
The Panthers, on the other hand, completely abandoned the running game—something the success of this team will rely heavily on this season.
Even with Jonathan Stewart out, Carolina features other capable runners to shoulder the load. In a tightly contested game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it would have been easy to assume that the Panthers would run the ball more frequently to control the slow pace of the game. The results indicated otherwise.
Here is one bold prediction for each team in Sunday’s matchup:
Saints Begin Season 0-2 for First Time since 2007
The Saints won both meetings with the Panthers last season and—based on what Cam Newton was able to do to the rest of the league—they were able to control the dynamic quarterback enough to not make him the deciding factor.
Things could change this year, as Newton—already comfortable with what he can do with his legs—seems more relaxed in the pocket, as evidenced by his 300-yard performance against Tampa Bay last week.
Although Newton did throw two interceptions in the loss 16-10 loss, anytime he keeps opposing defenses off balance only bodes well for Carolina.
Griffin exploited the Saints defense all game long last week and might have laid a blueprint for how to beat the Saints.
Although it will be difficult to stymie New Orleans’ high-powered offense, the Panthers feature just enough pieces to force this game out of Brees’ hands and into Newton’s.
Cam Newton Bests RGIII’s Output on Saints in Week 1 with 375 Total Yards and 3 Touchdowns
The fact that Griffin did whatever he wanted against the Saints defense last week gives Newton the prospects of having just as productive of a game in Week 2.
While New Orleans was able to harness Newton in two victories last season, this time around could render much different results.
The second-year quarterback—although some fear a sophomore slump could be on the horizon—showed that he is willing to do what it takes to complement his legs with a more efficient arm this season.
Though the stats will always be there for Newton, how they translate to victories this year is what will truly define him as a quarterback in this league.