On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints (12-3) go on the road to take on the Carolina Panthers (5-10). The first time the teams played, it ended in wild fashion, as the Saints ended up winning 34-31. The kickers ended up playing an essential part in the game. Carolina missed a field goal with less than two minutes in the game, and the Saints were able to make on to win the game as time expired.
What Does This Game Mean?
The Panthers are out of the playoff race. They fired head coach, Ron Rivera several weeks ago and have been working their way up the draft order since. They will be playing for pride, looking for players to build around for 2020.
New Orleans has locked up a playoff berth but is still jockeying for position. They will still be looking to secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage. The Superdome is a tough place to play, and Sean Payton knows that, deciding to play all of his starters.
Michael Thomas was able to make his mark in the record books last week, moving to the top of the single-season receptions list. With 145 catches, Thomas now owns the record with one game to go. He will be looking to extend his newly-broken record, but more importantly, he will be vying for a win that could leave him and his team with a week off to rest and prepare for their next opponent.
Drew Brees now holds the all-time passing yardage, passing touchdowns, and completion percentage records. Tom Brady is on his heels for the touchdown record, but for now, Brees is atop the list. His only goal is to win a second Super Bowl.
The Panthers are last in the league in yards-per-carry allowed and next to last in rushing yards allowed per game. They have allowed their opponent to rush for 100 yards or more in 13 of 15 games this year. Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray will need to get the ground game going against this porous run defense.
The Panthers secondary has been above average, but Drew Brees had his way with them earlier in the year. They will need to get pressure on Brees to force him into bad throws. They are among the league-leaders in sacks. However, the Saints have one of the best offensive lines in terms of protecting the quarterback.
Will Grier is expecting to make his second consecutive start after throwing three interceptions without a score in his debut. Christian McCaffrey was targeted more than the rest of the team last week. To find success, Carolina will need the young rookie to spread the ball around more.
The Panthers aren’t playing for much at this point and the Saints want a first-round bye. I expect the Saints to jump ahead early and to run away with this one.
Saints 31 Panthers 17
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