Panthers vs. Saints: Week 2 Preview
The Carolina Panthers blew it in week one. We get it. Now it’s time to get over what we can no longer control, and look to the forward. Because like it or not, a very angry and dangerous New Orleans Saints team is going to do all they can to avoid an 0-2 hole, and they’d love nothing more than to send the Panthers to that same fate.
This isn’t just a divisional battle with serious divisional and playoff implications. I mean, it is both of those things, but it’s so much more. A win over the Saints could crush New Orleans’ spirit early, and could show the Panthers are for real and that their week one disaster versus the Buccaneers was more of a blip on the radar.
It’s certainly possible for Carolina to win this game, but it won’t be the least bit easy. Here’s a look at the top five things to watch for in this heated Sunday battle:
1. Panthers’ Rushing Game
Obviously Carolina wasn’t very effective on the ground last week. Cam Newton had just four yards off of five rushes and DeAngelo Williams was downright pathetic with -1 yard in week one. With that said, I think the disastrous ground game performance actually had more to do with the Panthers abandoning the run early than it did with the Buccaneers or having an inability to run. Cam Newton is a talented young passer, but he plays better when he works off the run. And the Panthers tend to win those games, too.
New Orleans isn’t a bad run defense, but if you don’t give up on the run they can definitely be broken. The Redskins showed that with Alfred Morris last week, and I think the Panthers can do it too if they stick to it.
2. Drew Brees vs. Panthers Pass Defense
Brees was way off the mark in week one, and that breeds hope that he’ll once again be off the mark in week two versus Carolina. The Panthers have historically been one of the tougher pass defenses on Brees, and with his recent struggles, there is legit hope for that continue. That wasn’t the case at all in 2011 during Brees’ crazy record season, but the Panthers gave him fits in 2010. In two games that year, Brees was held under 300 yards passing, and in both games he had to throw the ball at least 43 times to get even 275 yards. Obviously he wasn’t completely stopped, but in one of those contests Carolina only lost 16-14. It’s not fool proof, obviously, but the point is there is hope. Carolina doing a solid job on Josh Freeman and Brees’ sketchy start offer a lot of optimism, especially with the game in Carolina.
3. Containing Saints’ RBBC
The New Orleans Saints have a very solid corps of running backs who can hurt you in very different ways. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t really able to dive much into that rotation in week one due to being down to the Redskins early and often. However, Carolina continued to struggle against the run in week one, and they could have their hands full this week with the Saints likely adjusting and trying to bring in a more balanced attack (they threw the ball 52 times in week 1). How the Panthers respond will be a huge key to this game. I’m particularly worried about Darren Sproles in this one. He didn’t have a single carry (just 5 touches) in week one, and New Orleans figures to get the explosive back involved more this week.
4. Cam Newton Going to Work
Newton put up over 300 passing yards in week one, which was nice to see, but I wasn’t a fan of his decision-making in spots and overall he just wasn’t up to snuff. We saw Robert Griffin III torch the Saints in their own backyard in his first ever game, so we know they’re vulnerable through the air. The Panthers will have to get that rushing attack rolling for Newton to be care free and not have to force the issue, but I think it can be done. With that said, the Saints know Newton better after two games in 2011, and are fresh off a game against a strong-armed, athletic passer in RG3. It’ll be a matchup to watch.
5. Joseph Morgan Starting?
Little known Joseph Morgan is set up to start as the #3 wide receiver for the Saints this week, which could go either way as a matchup nightmare for the Panthers. Not because of Morgan, but because they don’t have Devery Henderson (concussion) and Adrian Arrington (knee), they may force the issue to their top targets more. That could mean big, productive days for the likes of Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Darren Sproles, or it could mean more turnovers because Brees doesn’t have a reliable option beyond them to call upong. This will be another interesting note to keep tabs on.
This is a fantastic shoot-out in the making. Both Brees and Newton are coming off of big passing days, and both have the ability to light up the scoreboard. Both of their rushing attacks have been suspect and both defenses have holes, so this one is definitely going to be one to watch, even if you’re not fan of either team.