The Carolina Panthers, in their quest to right their ship, venture down to New Orleans to take on the New Orleans Saints, who are looking to secure their first win of the season. The Panthers dropped to 2-2 with a 20-7 loss last weekend to the NFC South-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Panthers have a few things dogging them. Firstly, reserve quarterback David Carr continues to take over for Jake Delhomme, who until he injured his elbow, was enjoying an excellent year. Last week, Carr went 19-of-42 for 155 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Wide receiver Steve Smith is your leader on this team (21-313-4 TD’s), with a solid campaign thus far from running back DeShaun Foster (61-302-1 TD). Their defense, once their bread-and-butter, has declined markedly this season – they have recorded only 2 sacks and zero interceptions. Lastly, and certainly not less importantly, defensive lineman Kris Jenkins’ speech in the locker room recently about the team playing with no heart – that has to still be in the minds of most of the Panthers.
The Saints, as opposed to last year, are a team who are polar opposites to what they were last season. At the WEEK 5 mark, QB Drew Brees, while posting OK numbers, is night and day different as opposed to this time last season (83-of-130, 677 yards, 1 TD, 7 INT’s). Another sore spot for the Saints is the running attack; RB Deuce McAllister is lost for the season (knee), which means that Reggie Bush will get the bulk of the carries for the remainder of the season. Even WR Marques Colston has regressed (18-185-1 TD), although to be fair, he’s been double-covered on passing plays. The defense is nothing to write home about, either. As of this week, the Saints have recorded 1 interception and zero sacks, which is unheard of at this stage of the season.
For the Panthers to win, they will need a much-improved effort from Carr and a decent running game from Foster and reserve RB DeAngelo Williams. On the flip side, the Saints simply need to rediscover their offense (Brees passing like last year) and get a solid effort from Bush. Although their defense is subpar, they should be able to exert some pressure on the Panthers’ defensive line and generate a decent pass rush. Since defense for the most part will probably be a non-issue, don’t be surprised if this is one of the higher scoring games this week. Brees’ arm should lead the Saints to their first victory of this season.