Coming off an extremely big and emotional victory like that which the New Orleans Saints earned on Halloween night can be somewhat draining. It can build up your spirits and make morale high to realize that this team is as good as any in the league when they truly put their minds and hearts into it.
That’s exactly why they can’t let their guard down this week against the lowly 1-6 Carolina Panthers.
The Saints will travel to Carolina to face the Panthers for the second time this season, and they’ll also be facing their second Panthers’ starting quarterback as well. Rookie Jimmy Clausen was under center when the Saints won earlier this season 16-14 in the Superdome. Matt Moore is back in the starting spot and hasn’t been showing much improvement either.
New Orleans can’t take that for granted though because it’s already been shown this season that the Saints appear to play up or down to their competition based on records and other statistics. How else can anyone explain victories over teams like the Vikings, Steelers, and Buccaneers while taking losses to the Cardinals and Browns?
With a victory on Sunday, the Saints can head into their bye week with a 6-3 record and tied for at least a share of second place in the NFC South. The season is far from over and the bye week will help heal a lot of lingering injuries, but the Saints have to go into it on a high note and a victory over Carolina would seal that deal.
What to watch for:
~ Keeping up the intensity from last week’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers is a must this week, and that especially holds true on defense. The Saints are getting back starting cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer from injuries which is a huge boost and one that has been greatly needed. Yet, the Saints still did an excellent job last week of defending against the pass and limiting Ben Roethlisberger to a mere 195 passing yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. The defense also hounded him with a barrage of blitz packages which ultimately picked up three sacks. If Gregg Williams‘ plan could do those things to and cause those mistakes from a veteran such as Big Ben, then the same game plan could rattle Matt Moore’s confidence totally off its foundation.
The passing attack of the Panthers may try to play an even bigger part of the game this week since running back DeAngelo Williams is doubtful with a foot injury and will most likely not play. That means players like wide receiver Steve Smith are going to get a lot of looks in this game and it will be up to the Saints’ secondary (such as Darren Sharper) to make sure the minute weapon doesn’t get behind them.
~ Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are still going to be on the sidelines this week due to injuries, and that honestly may be the best idea. Bringing them back one week before a bye doesn’t make much sense will allow them both even more time with no pressure to get back on the field. The Saints though do have to find some way to develop a running game of some sort to balance out the offense. Last week against the Steelers, the Saints gained 30 total yards rushing. Yes, that’s it. Drew Brees was able to pick up the slack with his giant group of wide receivers, but being able to use Chris Ivory, LaDell Betts, and Julius Jones in a better manner would open things even more. Say what you will about it being a trio consisting of a rookie and two washed up veterans, but that’s an awful lot of talent for only 30 yards.
~ Not much else needs to be looked at here. The Panthers’ defense is rather week honestly and if the running game of thr Saints can get anything going at all, then that will allow Brees to pass all over them the whole day. Look for big games from Marques Colston and Robert Meachem on Sunday.
Defensively, the Saints need to keep it going with the turnovers. Those two big turnovers against the Steelers last week changed the entire momentum of the game and the second one (interception by Leigh Torrence) was the clincher and sealed the win. Pittsburgh was starting to come back and build up a fire but then there was Marvin Mitchell knocking the ball free and Sharper picking it out of the air to kill any type of spirit they may have had. New Orleans can not let Carolina build up any type of confidence because they’re a team with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Prediction: New Orleans 35 – Carolina 14
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