By Maximillian C. Burgos | Staff Writer
Drew Brees and his New Orleans Saints travel to North Carolina to face off against Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers. The NFC South divisional game is scheduled to kickoff at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
The Panthers are coming off of a week, where they struggled offensively while the Saints are coming off of their second straight loss.
The Saints are coming into the game at the bottom of the NFC South. They have been outscored 65-39 by their opponents to start the season. The season is young yet, the Saints defensive woes are already very prevalent.
At the end of his career, Brees will probably be one of, if not the best, quarterbacks to have ever lived and played in the NFL, but not even he can win games with an abysmal defense to back him up. According to NFL.com, the Saints have the worst defense in the league, allowing 32.5 points per game.
The defense has forced one turnover through the first two games, which is doing little to help their offensive attack.
It’s also a bad sign when a team’s corner P.J. Williams is the leading tackler on a team with 18 tackles across two games.
The Saints passing is third in the league in yards gained per game, trailing the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, but the running game is 28th overall (out of 32 teams), averaging 70.5 yards per game. Running-by-committee is proving not to be effective for the Saints this season. Mark Ingram has 69 yards and the legendary Adrian Peterson has only 44 yards. The team altogether has only 141 yards.
If the Saints want to be more successful, they have to run the ball more efficiently to help maintain possession.
The Panthers, on the other hand, are looking solid defensively. They have only allowed six points so far and have managed just enough offensive to win. Defensive end Julius Peppers, who returned to his original team in the off-season, has proven to be a solid pick up with seven tackles and 2.5 sacks on the season already. His presence is felt by opposing quarterbacks.
Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are also a solid linebacking duo in the middle of the Panthers defense. Davis has 14 tackles and a sack, while Kuechly has 12 tackles, a forced fumbled and a interception. Both linebackers punish everything that comes through the middle and make receivers think twice about running through the middle of the field for a pass.
The secondary of the Panthers will definitely be tested this week. Michael Thomas has some speed and pose that can prove difficult to cover. He goes up and competes for the ball with aggression. Brandon Coleman and Ted Ginn Jr. also have some blazing speed for Brees to target. Coby Fleener is also a large reliable target for Brees to find in the red zone. Fleener has already caught two out of Brees’ three touchdown passes.
Both teams will have their hands full defensively. The Panthers have not put up glorious numbers offensively, but they have done enough to win. Newton is still a dual-threat quarterback that can cause damage through the air or on the ground.
The backfield for the Panthers can prove to be troublesome for the Saints with both Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey. Both backs have yet to score a touchdown this season, but both have shown the potential to run the ball effectively to a degree. Their averages yards per carry have suffered, but its still early on in the season and the Saints defense has shown an inability to stop anything in the air or ground game.
Out of the 43 games in the overall series, the Saints have been on the road 21 times and have only won ten times against the Panthers. Brees is solid against the Panthers, but their defense is solid. The game may come down to the Saints defense needing to make plays to give Brees every chance to put up points.
The Saints are the favorite, according to covers.com. According to the site, the Panthers have a 80% chance of falling to the Saints, according to their experts. According to their public poll, the Saints have a 60% chance of winning the game.
The game could go either way.
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