5 things to watch Saints at Panthers

Kristian Garic
December 15, 2018 - 1:59 pm

Put aside the wine and broom Saints defensive end Cam Jordan sent to Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton after the Saints swept the Panthers in three games last season.  The Saints and Panthers will play for the fourth time in a calendar year Monday night in Charlotte. The Saints are six point favorites in week 15 of NFL football.  Here are five things to watch Monday night.

Big Plays:   The Saints have struggled a bit recently to get chunk yardage in the passing game over the last three games.  Conversely, the Panthers defense has allowed plays of 20 yards or more seemingly every game.  If the Saints can make Carolina pay through the air with some big plays, it will go a long way towards beating the Panthers for the fourth consecutive game.

Rush defense:  The Panthers are 7th in the NFL against the run.  The Saints have the league’s best rushing defense.  This game might become an aerial assault to some degree.  That is advantage Saints.  However, the Saints have to remain patient in the running game.  Rushing the football in the first half pays dividends in the third and fourth quarters.  Sean Payton has to stay patient, calling runs to eventually wear down the Panthers defense.

Terron Armstead:  All signs point to his return to the lineup, after missing four games with a pectoral muscle injury.  Tip your hat to Jermon Bushrod, who filled in, but Armstead is a difference maker on the left side of the line at tackle.  Armstead is the best left tackle in the league, and the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert says, “When he’s healthy, he’s a hall of fame tackle!”  Getting Terron Armstead back will be felt in the running game and the passing game.

Wounded animal:  The Panthers are in a free fall, losing five straight games.  Saints players expect Carolina to come out with a lot of emotion and pride with their playoff hopes on life support.  Dangerous teams in December make me nervous.  I would expect the Panthers to play with great energy and even come up with a few tricks against the Saints.  What do they have to lose?

Christian McCaffrey:   He’s a dynamic player in both the Panthers rushing attack and passing attack.  McCaffrey does it all!  He has a chance to surpass the 1,000 yard mark rushing and receiving, putting him in the company of hall of famer Marshal Faulk as the only players in NFL history to accomplish that feat.  Stopping McCaffrey is paramount for the Saints defense.  

Lagniappe:  Panthers QB Cam Newton is battling an injured right shoulder that was surgically repaired during the offseason.  Newton started out the season in the MVP conversation, but during the Panthers five game slide he’s been a turnover machine.  Newton has been up and down as a passer, looking like an All Pro on one throw and a fledgling rookie the next.  Which Cam will show up?

Prediction:  This game is going to be a wild ride!  Vegas has the Saints as six point favorites.  I don’t see it that way.  The Saints have two games left against the Panthers, and to think they will sweep Carolina again, making it five straight wins over Carolina, is a hard imagine.  However, this is the Saints we’re talking about and they’ve done nothing but beat odds and set records all season.  Saints win in a close one 27-25 over the Panthers.

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