Saints Offense vs Panthers Defense
For all the criticisms regarding the Saints offense, they are tied for fourth in successful play rate, per Sharp Football Stats.
Now, they’ve benefited greatly from an explosive rushing attack (58% success rate), and, unfortunately, it is very difficult to sustain that type of rushing production; moving the ball on the ground is far more volatile.
Thus, the time is now for Drew Brees and New Orleans’ passing attack to lead this team. Unfortunately, that cannot happen with Brees ranking last in deep-ball percentage, and I am not sure that is all his fault; they severely lack a deep threat.
Emmanuel Sanders was supposed to severe that role, yet he has just two targets of over 20+ yards, and if opponents don’t have to fear an explosive element to this offense, I am not very confident they can continue to produce at a high level.
On the bright side, they will get Thomas, arguably the game’s best receiver, back from injury and suspension this week. He’ll provide Brees with the sure-handed target that helps Sean Payton’s offense function, and I wonder if that will allow the veteran quarterback to get rid of the ball quicker.
Considering that they rank just 15th in pass-block grade from Pro Football Focus and are the seventh highest-graded pass rush (via PFF), a shorter time to throw is almost a necessity.
Luckily for the Saints, Carolina has other deficiencies defensively. Although they rank 11th in coverage grade, my models, which factor in preseason projections, indicate that they’re closer to 22nd-best coverage unit.
Their starting linebackers, Shaq Thompson and Tahir Whitehead, have each struggled in coverage this season, and that ought to be exploited by running back Alvin Kamara.
Plus, for what it’s worth, this is a younger defense, and although I cannot back this up with statistical analysis, I would put good money on Brees being able to pick them apart; they are likely to be more undisciplined and less-fundamentally sound.