Dec 17, 2018; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) gets tackled by Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) and free safety Mike Adams (29) during the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium.


Saints empty the cupboards vs. Carolina

Zach Strief previews today's game

Zach Strief
December 30, 2018 - 9:57 am

When the NFL schedule makers laid out two games between the Panthers and Saints at the end of the season, this was not their intention.  The Saints have secured the one seed in the NFC and the Panthers have secured a 7 game losing streak.  Today’s game is more about players of the future and a lesson in roster management, than it is about winning a game.  The Saints will rest several starters, most notably Drew Brees, in an attempt to get prepared for the coming divisional round in the playoffs.  Even more unusual than a team resting starters at the end of the season, they should be favored in today’s game.  The Carolina Panthers are down to a practice squad quarterback that they released earlier in the season, in Kyle Allen.  The first year quarterback has taken a pretty unusual path to get here.

Allen was the number one pocket passer in high school football according to Rivals in 2013.  He started his college career at Texas A&M, starting as a freshman and sophomore before losing his job, causing him to transfer to Houston.  He saw a similar fate at Houston, starting, then losing his starting job.  Kyle Allen decided to forgo another year and entered the NFL.  Going undrafted, he was signed by the Carolina Panthers.  Allen went from being at home on the couch, after being released by the Panthers, to starting in an NFL game in just a few weeks.  He is also not the only backup quarterback getting a start today, though the one on the other sideline has a better pedigree.  

Sean Payton announced Teddy Bridgewater as the starter earlier this week and it is audition time for a quarterback, who has recovered from a decimating injury just two years ago.  Bridgewater dislocated his knee in a non-contact drill, going into his third NFL season.  There were fears at the time his leg may need to be amputated.  Two years later he will take the field with the New Orleans Saints, operating the offense built by Sean Payton and Drew Brees.  For Teddy, it’s an opportunity some feared may never reappear.  For Saints fans it’s an opportunity to see if the future at quarterback could possibly be in the building already.  It’s an intriguing question that has huge implications for the future, not only of the Saints, but also for Teddy Bridgewater.  

Bridgewater won’t be doing it with many of the weapons that have made the Saints so prolific this season.  He will have several young and talented receivers trying to make a case for their future with the Saints.  Tre’quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood and Simmie Cobb with all get oppurtunities to show their capabilities with more opportunity in this stretch run for the Saints.  Saints fans will also likely get to see the return of Manti Te’o, Trey Hendrickson and, fan favorite, Craig Robertson.  Deuce and I talked in the preseason about how deep this roster was, and I believe the Saints will show that today with a strong performance in spite of the altered roster.  

It’s unusual in the NFL to see a game like today, but as a Saints fan, you deserve a week with less stress.  The only real achievement on the line is a franchise record 14th win.  With the injuries on the Carolina Panthers, I expect them Black & Gold to get that.  It has been a wild ride this season, and this game is simply the calm before the storm.  The Saints are the one seed in the NFC.  The road to Atlanta goes through New Orleans.  It could be a very Happy New Year for Saints fans…

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