The 5-3 New Orleans Saints, coming off of a 20-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at home on Sunday Night Football, will travel to Carolina to take on the 1-6 Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers are coming off of a 20-10 loss and are looking like a team headed downwards with each and every game.
The Saints cannot underestimate the Panthers despite their record. They will still have the Browns game just two weeks ago fresh in their minds, and won’t want to let another team like that beat them.
The Saints will be playing their best in the rest of their games.
So who will win this game? How will it be won?
Will the Saints be on a two game winning streak after, or will they fall again to another one of the NFL’s lesser talented teams?
Let’s find out in this extended game preview.
When the Saints have the Ball
The Saints have struggled with turnovers, but last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they had just two which helped them win. Quarterback Drew Brees had a strong game against Pittsburgh despite the fact that the Steelers put a heavy pass rush on him. The line blocked it well and when he had to, Brees stepped up in the pocket or got outside of it to make plays.
The Panthers pass rush is nothing near the Steelers'. So far this season, the Panthers have managed just nine sacks and aren’t really getting to the quarterback on a consistent basis. This spells “opportunity” for the Saints.
The Carolina Panthers defense is allowing opponents an average of 182 yards a game through the air, which is actually pretty respectable, but they haven’t faced the kind of passing offense that the Saints are going to bring to Carolina. Teams are finding so much success running against them they haven’t really needed to pass in order to win.
Everyone knows the Saints have one of the better passing games in the NFL and have been getting better. Look for them to keep up the pressure through the air much like they did against the Steelers, and mix in the run to help keep the Panthers defense honest.
The guy who is leading the Saints in yardage is Marques Colston with 572 yards. The Saints touchdown leader (through the air) is Lance Moore with five. He has really come through for the Saints and is starting to become one of Brees' favorite targets.
Running back Chris Ivory is leading the way on the ground this season for the Saints due to the fact that Pierre Thomas has been out and may not be back. So far, Ivory has rushed for 332 yards on 66 carries but doesn’t have any touchdowns yet.
With the Panther’s defense being poor against the run, expect the Saints to try to run the ball often to take some of the pressure off of their passing game.
When the Panthers have the Ball
The Panthers will start quarterback Matt Moore once again for this game, and while he may not be an outstanding quarterback, he is still the best option. As it stands right now, the Panthers are averaging 140 yards a game through the air while the Saints defense is allowing teams an average of 204 yards per game passing.
The Saints cannot afford for to have the Panthers all of the sudden discover a passing game, so look for them to blitz a lot (the Saints have earned 15 sacks on defense while the Panthers have allowed nine) and try to pressure Moore and get some turnovers.
We all saw what safety Darren Sharper was able to do last week after being out for the first six games. We can expect more of that kind of play out of him and the rest of the defense. There is also some concern in at the cornerback position where the Saints are pretty thin as they wait for some key players to get back from injury. Hopefully the guys that they need back get back soon.
The Saints defensive line hasn’t been doing too bad of a job both in pass rushing and in stopping the run, so look for them to keep it up in this game.
As mentioned, the secondary is banged up but with the passing woes that the Panthers have had as of late, Carolina shouldn’t have a lot of success passing the ball against the Panther’s offense.
Where Carolina can do some damage is running the football. Depending on the health of running back DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers will use their two headed rushing attack (with Jonathan Stewart as well) to try to control the ball and score points.
Through seven games this season the Panthers are averaging 140 yards per game on the ground which means that they can control the ball pretty easily. The Saints defense is letting teams gain around 124 yards per game so they are giving up some yards on the ground. They cannot afford to let the Panthers control the ball for long periods of time.
Look for the Saints linebackers and defense ends to work hard to contain Carolina’s rushing attack and if they can contain Williams and Stewart then the Saints will have an easy time winning this game.
The Panthers aren't playing good football by any means right now, but they are a division opponent and will play the Saints pretty tough. New Orleans can’t afford to get trapped in this game and lose to an inferior opponent.
Starting fast would really help the Saints, so they need to pass the ball early and often to start, and then, once the lead had been gained and is adequate enough, they can settle down and run the ball in order to control it and the clock.
New Orleans' secondary is banged up pretty bad, but they shouldn’t have to worry too much about the Panthers' passing game, so it may not matter. Pass pressure from the defensive line would help.
Even though Brees had two turnovers against the Steelers last week (an interception and a fumble) he still managed to get the Saints into the win column against one of the best teams in the NFL. Keeping their mistakes to a minimum will be important for the Saints. Turnovers have killed them in past games and they cannot afford to let that happen in this game.
The Saints are the superior team but mistakes can bring them down and give the Panthers a win in this game. If the Saints can jump to an early lead and keep the ball in their hands (and not allow the Panthers to run the ball), they will win this game.
New Orleans 28 Carolina 13