Welcome everyone to the latest game preview for the New Orleans Saints! This week, we break down the Saints second matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
Last Week: The Saints came up short on the road against the Los Angeles Rams with a 26-20 loss. Meanwhile, the Panthers put up 17 points in the fourth quarter to come away with a 35-27 victory over the New York Jets.
Last Meeting: The last time these two teams faced off, the Saints started their eight game winning streak with a convincing 34-13 win on the road all the way back in week three.
Storylines to Watch:
Panthers are Tougher the Second Time Around: This Carolina team is a different monster than what they were when the Saints took them down in week three. The offense at the time was struggling to put points on the board and it showed in the 34-13 loss.
Since the week three loss, they’ve been able to get above 20 points consistently, including a 45-21 win over Miami before the bye week. The defense has continued to improve, allowing less than 400 total yards of offense since the loss. That turnaround on both sides of the ball could wind up being huge for their chances of moving to the top of the NFC South.
Returning Secondary Will Be Key: One of the big reasons for the Saints loss was the secondary being ravaged by injuries. You had rookie Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley being out on the secondary and that was a big reason why Goff went for 354 yards and two touchdowns.
The front seven, even without Okafor, looked solid in the loss with four sacks. However, when the defense wasn’t able to get at the quarterback, the Rams high-powered offense took the Saints to task through the air. Based off of injury reports as of this writing show that both Lattimore and Crawley were limited in practice this week; possibly meaning that the secondary will have their impact players back in the fold for a big division game. If they are able to play on Sunday afternoon, the defense will be able to stop Cam Newton through the air
Stopping Greg Olsen: One of the big reasons why the Saints were able to dominate the Panthers was because of Greg Olsen being out with an injury. Look at what he’s been able to do against the Saints in recent games. In three of the last four meetings, Olsen put up at least 100 yards receiving.
Just look at what happened about two weeks ago when the Saints took on the Redskins and Vernon Davis had a pretty decent performance in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. If the Saints want to get a win, they need to keep the football out of Olsen’s hands. The positive for the Saints is that the Panthers tight end didn’t practice on Wednesday, but reports are still saying he’ll be playing on Sunday.
New Orleans Will Win If:
The Saints can keep their stranglehold on first place in the NFC South if the secondary can get their impact players back, especially when it comes to Lattimore. It’s evident that Kenny Vaccaro works best as a safety, not a corner like he did last week when he gave up on some of the routes that he was on.
Carolina Will Win If:
Carolina can get in front of the NFC South if their defense can force some mistakes by the Saints early on. The Saints have started to cough up the football a lot more than when they faced off in week three and if the Panthers defense force some turnovers, it’ll be a win for the Saints.