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New Orleans Saints Versus Carolina Panthers – A Look Ahead

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Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Saints outside linebacker

Junior Galette

(93) celebrates after getting a sack during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers defeated the Saints 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports – New Orleans Saints versus Carolina Panthers – A Look Ahead

There is always a little meanness in the air when the New Orleans Saints play the Carolina Panthers.  Whether it was Jeremy Shockey off of his meds or Steve Smith‘s chirping, these two teams go at it hard and fast.  We expect Thursday night’s match up to live up to the rivalry’s history.

At present, the Saints are one-half game behind the Panthers for the lead in the NFC South.  And although Thursday night’s game will not definitively decide the division, it will go a long way to demonstrating the Saint’s ability to win and win on the road.

The Panthers have not been dominant this season.  They have lost by some significant margins to the Steelers, Ravens, and Green Bay and dropped two games at home.  While the Saints on the other hand, have lost only to the Cowboys at a significant margin and have won all of their home games.

Going into the game, the Panthers’ offensive line has had major losses to injury and will start four relatively inexperienced Oline men at both guard and tackle positions.  The match up against the Saints front defensive line men is not looking good for Cam Newton and the boys.  Newton’s primary targets on offense have been the rookie Kelvin Benjamin, the standby Greg Olsen and the wily vet Jerricho Cotchery.  The running back situation is looking up for Carolina as they expect to have DeAngelo Williams back to pair up with Jonathan Stewart.  The Saints’ loss of David Hawthorne looms large in this matchup, and the run defense will need to be on its toes.  If the defensive front of the Saints can significantly disrupt the Carolina offense, the Panthers may be in for a long night.

How is the Panthers’ defense faring these days?  They have a nice rotation of Charles Johnson, Kawann Short, Star Lotulelei, Kony Ealy as well as other defensive tackles and ends.  Carolina loves to rotate these guys against the OLine of the opposing offensive.  The tactic is to wear down the Oline because more than any other unit in football, the OLine must play together well and consistently as a unit.  (There are no substitutions along the OLine.)  If the Saints can play uptempo and limit the Carolina substitutions, it may bode well for the Saints.  Sprinkling in the run will help to wear down the defensive front of Carolina, and I expect Tim Lelito to have an awesome game.  The blocking skills of Erik Lorig and Josh Hill will play a major role in allowing the receivers to get down field by slowing down the Panthers’ front.  Watching the Carolina game with the Seattle, Russell Wilson seemed to have time to throw but was largely inaccurate.

The secondary of Carolina is suspect at best, and if Drew Brees has enough time, he should be able to connect with his receivers.  It is anticipated, Brees will try to vex Roman Harper Thursday night.  It would be so much better if Khiry Robinson was in this game or Pierre Thomas to help give Mark Ingram a break, but if the Saints are able to mix in some screens to Travaris Cadet behind Terron Armstead, it may make a difference.

There is every expectation the Saints match up well with the Panthers, and if last Sunday’s attendance was any indication of the Carolina’s fans waning interest, crowd noise should not be a factor.  (I saw many an empty seat).  This may be the game the Saints steal on the road and bring back a win to start a nice three-game stretch at home.  #WhoDat

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