Carolina Panthers: Week 14 Preview (Bring on the Saints)

It does seem like every week Panthers fans are talking about the “game of the season”. Well as in previous weeks, this one is too. Carolina travels to the Louisiana bayou to take on the New Orleans Saints. Watch out folks, this one is gonna be a barn burner.

The Saints are coming off a Monday night massacre. Unfortunately for them, they were the ones massacred. Seattle showed the entire country what a tremendous team and home field advantage they have. Russell Wilson made a case for his consideration as an MVP candidate  and the defense rendered the potent Saints offense completely impotent. The dominant performance by Seattle made a clear statement as to who should be the NFC favorites to get to the Super Bowl.

New Orleans welcomed back head coach Sean Payton this season, after a one year suspension for bounty gate. With his return came the return of the dynamic Saints offense. Drew Brees is having a great season and the Saints defense is playing very well since bringing in former Cowboys defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan. The Saints are very dangerous right now. They were embarrassed in Seattle and will have something to prove Sunday night.   

For the Saints it all starts with Drew Brees. This was clearly the case against the Seahawks. The offense floundered because Brees was under pressure throughout the game. The running game is just effective enough to make the play action pass viable but it cannot carry this offense. The quick pass and getting the ball to all world tight end Jimmy Graham is it’s bread and butter. The Saints will not hesitate to challenge the Panthers secondary. This will be the key matchup of the game. The Panthers defensive backfield has been exposed as the weak link in this elite unit. Melvin White, Captain Munnerlyn, Robert Lester, and Mike Mitchell all will need to play their best game of the season if Carolina wants to win this game.

The defensive line will need to help this secondary by pressuring Brees. The front seven has often times this season been able to hide the deficiency of Carolina’s defensive backfield and it has not ever been needed more than in this game. One thing the Panthers have done most of this season has been getting to the opposing team’s quarterback without the use of extra blitzers. The line will have the services of defensive end Charles Johnson who is returning from an injury he has been dealing with since the Patriots game. He was the unfortunate recipient of a leg whip from a Patriots offensive lineman on what can only be described as a dirty, no more like filthy, play. With his return the Panthers front four will be at full strength and will force the Saints offensive line to play their best game of this season thus far.

Flipping sides of the ball, Cam Newton will be asked to continue his stellar play. During this eight game win streak he has accounted for 18 touchdowns (13 passing and 5 rushing). Not to mention he has led the Panthers on a few late game winning drives as well. We have seen the maturation of this young quarterback. He will get his mettle tested against a much improved Saints defense.


The Saints defense was abysmal last season. This year they are ranked 8th in total defense. The biggest concern for Carolina regarding this Saints defense is how well they get to the quarterback. The Saints as a team have only one less sack than the Panthers.This will pose a real concern for the Panthers and their makeshift offensive line. Cam will need all his elusiveness to keep this offense on the field.

Time of possession will be vital for the Panthers to leave New Orleans with a victory. We must get first downs and have long drives of 12-15 plays. This will keep Brees and the offense on the Saints sideline and will keep them out of the endzone. With the talent the Saints have on offense and the savvy of the coaching staff I can’t imagine Carolina keeping the Saints completely off the scoreboard. The fewer the chances Carolina gives to Brees the better our chances of winning.

Turnovers will be our demise. Carolina is number one in turnover margin in the NFL. That means we have done a good job protecting the ball. That will need to continue if we want to win this division, and let’s be honest, that is what the two games against New Orleans are all about.

This season has been all about relevancy for this Carolina team. Lately the team has been in the spotlight and they seem to be up to the challenge every week. The task facing them Sunday night is a daunting one. The Saints were dismantled in Seattle. The players say they were humbled. Carolina is playing a team that has not lost at home in the last 10 primetime matchups. This game will let Panther fans know just how good Carolina really is. I for one look forward to it as the biggest test for Ron Rivera. He has shown himself to be a very capable coach. Most impressive has been his ability to keep the team focused. The team’s success has not gotten in the way of seeing their objective, the next game.

The next game will be for the lead in the division, and will set the tone for the rest of the season. A win here and the sky’s the limit for this Panthers team.

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