Cam, Drew. Take XIV

NFC Game Of The Week

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints

Panthers: If you want to talk about winning ugly, that’s exactly how the Carolina Panthers won their game on Sunday against the New York Jets. Cam didn’t look like his normal self and he continues to be the leading rusher for the team which doesn’t help and the defense did give up a few plays here and there, but they looked more consistent than anything the offense did. The Panthers really struggled last season after the year before when they dominated the NFC and got to the Super Bowl. The biggest improvement has been the Panthers offensive line and how they’ve given the quarterback time to throw the football because most of the 2016 season and some of this year early on, the Panthers struggled in pass protection and Cam was running for his life which is never a good sign. Right now, the Panthers are 8-3 and in second place of a three-team divisional race in the NFC South and their defense once again is headlining things. Having a healthy Luke Kuechly is always a good thing as he’s been battling concussions the last few seasons and the secondary which was the biggest downfall last year has improved greatly. Although they won on Sunday at the Meadowlands, I wasn’t impressed because they had plenty of opportunities to put the Jets away and they continued to let them get back into the game. There were too many mental lapses and a strong lack of discipline along with failing to convert on third down. To stay in the hunt for the division title, this is a must-win game against a team that you’ve had success against as of late.

Saints: Their eight-game winning streak came to an end on Sunday in Los Angeles against the Rams. Despite that, they are still in first place in the NFC South and have yet to take a loss in division play yet. What went wrong for the Saints on Sunday? First, they were missing a few key guys on defense and the Rams attacked an injured secondary, the pass rush wasn’t there and the Rams defense put lots of pressure on Drew Brees along with taking away his weapons down the field and forcing the Saints to throw the football underneath. Anytime you can hold this offense to 20 points, you’ve done well. I really like how Sean Payton is keeping his team focused. He placed a ton of mouse traps around the team’s practice facility and basically told his team not to get lured into anything the media throws at them and to stay focused. It’s an interesting tactic, but if it works, then you continue to go with it. When I look at the NFC playoff picture, this could be a team that I see giving the others a ton of problem and here’s why I say this: They can run the football and establish their ground game. This isn’t a team that’s just built to throw the ball and scores 25-30 points each game, they’re able to slow the game down and control the line of scrimmage and their game in Buffalo is a perfect example of that. They will look to get back on track Sunday.

Panthers Player To Watch: Christian McCaffrey– Earlier in the year, I stated on social media that they need to incorporate him more into their offense and with Greg Olsen re-injuring his foot yesterday, Christian will have to be that security blanket that Cam Newton can lean on to make plays over the middle of the field and he can also help by running the ball, this could take a ton of pressure off of Newton.

Saints Player To Watch: P.J. Williams– The tandem of he along with Marshon Lattimore could be one to fear for years and years to come. The Saints will more than likely put him on Funchess and take that pressure off the rookie.

Final Analysis: When these two last met, Adrian Peterson was still a member of the Saints and this is what started the eight-game winning streak back in September. Both teams right now are much better than they were back at that beginning point of the season. The Panthers have to convert on third down and get some type of running game going, stop putting this all on Cam because your quarterback shouldn’t be your leading rusher as well. It’s key that the Saints keep Drew protected. If the Rams brought the pressure, what makes you think the Panthers won’t do the same? It’s easy to say the winner of this game will win the division, but there’s still lots of football to be played in this division. the Saints have two games with the Falcons and Carolina has one.

Prediction: Saints 35 Panthers 31