On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints (8-2) will face the Carolina Panthers (5-5) at home in a battle between the top two teams in the NFC South.
The Saints are coming off a big win on the road against the Buccaneers, and the Panthers are looking to rebound from a 29-3 home loss to the Falcons. New Orleans will be looking to extend their division lead of three games over Carolina.
The Panthers Offense
Carolina is led by the league’s leading rusher and do-it-all back, Christian McCaffrey. On the year, McCaffrey has 1,576 total yards to go along with a whopping 14 touchdowns. He has been instrumental in the Panthers’ quest for a playoff berth. Wide receiver, D.J. Moore, has also been a big factor in the passing game, having caught 62 passes for 779 yards and a touchdown. Moore has really come on strong of late. In his last three games, Moore has been targeted 36 times, catching 24 of those passes for 316 yards.
New Orleans may be without star cornerback, Marshon Lattimore, for the second consecutive week. Lattimore is known for matching up against an opponent’s number one receiver and hindering, if not shutting them down completely. He will be a big loss if he doesn’t play. The team forced Jameis Winston into throwing four interceptions last week.
The Saints have been really strong against the run, not allowing a single 100-yard rusher all season. P.J. Williams will likely get the start opposite Eli Apple if Marshon Lattimore is inactive. Safety Marcus Williams is having one of the best seasons a safety has had this year. He is tied for 3rd in the NFL with four interceptions and has more combined pass breakups and interceptions combined (8) than receptions allowed (7) all year. Cameron Jordan is sixth in the NFL with 9.5 sacks.
The Panthers have been decent against the pass, but they haven’t been able to stop the run. They rank among the league’s worst in yards allowed on the ground and rushing touchdowns. James Bradbury and Donte Jackson have been solid in coverage, but they will have their hands full with Michael Thomas. In order to stop Drew Brees, they will need to get a solid pass rush going. Keep an eye on Brian Burns off the edge, as he will try and hurry Brees into forcing throws and get him uncomfortable in the pocket.
With the Carolina defense being porous against the run, look for Sean Payton to try and establish the run early. Alvin Kamara will look to have one of his best games of the season, and Latavius Murray will hopefully get a few touches as well, being the more powerful guy out of the backfield.
Drew Brees has performed well in his three games since coming back from this thumb injury, throwing for 888 yards and six touchdowns to only one interception. Brees will need to try and involve some other receivers in the passing game. Jared Cook and Ted Ginn will need to get open to try and take some attention away from Michael Thomas.
Michael Thomas Record Watch
With a league-leading 94 receptions through ten games, Michael Thomas will look to add to an already great season. Last week, Thomas surpassed Marvin Harrison (89) and Julio Jones (89), for the most catches through a team’s first ten games of the season. Thomas is working his way into the record books and will try and keep up the pace on Sunday.
I’m expecting an intense game where the Saints will look to win their 9th game, securing another winning season. Carolina will be trying to shorten the distance between them and New Orleans for the division title. Watch for Sean Payton to try and establish the run early and use play-action to open up the passing game.
The Saints will want to try and contain Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers biggest threat. They will need to get up early and force Kyle Allen to throw the ball all afternoon. If the defense can repeat last week’s performance, it should be another win for the bayou.
Saints 31 Panthers 24
Follow @Alex2TheSimpson and @OTHeroics for more great content! Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion! Head over to our shop if you to purchase some Overtime Heroics gear!