The New Orleans Saints will face the Carolina Panthers in Week 3 in yet another fiery NFC South rivalry matchup. Which Panthers players could create some problems?
The Saints and Panthers enter 2022 with starkly different squads than they did last season.
Jameis Winston, who has hopefully recovered from his back fractures, leads an unproven offense while Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield adjusts to his new change of scenery. Mayfield does have a few talented pass-catchers in D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson, but NOLA isn't too afraid of Carolina's passing game.
Instead, these three Panthers players will likely inflict the most damage on Sunday.
No one forgot about CMC. The uber-talented Panthers running back has played just 10 games in the last two seasons, but he's coming back in 2022 with a vengeance.
Through two weeks of action, McCaffrey has recorded 135 rushing yards and one touchdown, showing glimpses of his 2019 All-Pro form in each game. Watching him play should strike fear in any run defender's heart; not only is CMC healthy again, but he can break tackles and gain plenty of yardage on breakaway plays.
If McCaffrey finds his footing in Week 3, the Saints are going to be in a lot of trouble.
In their last meeting in 2021, CMC memorably ran for 72 yards and posted 65 receiving yards in Carolina's dominant 26-7 victory against the Saints.
NOLA showed it can contain opposing rushing attacks after shutting down Bucs' Leonard Fournette in Week 2, yet CMC is no Fournette. He's better. The Saints will have their hands full trying to stop this guy.
Panthers' Brian Burns is one of the fiercest pass-rushers in the league right now and could make this game a living hell for Winston.
Winston got sacked six times and threw three picks against a tough Bucs defense, and unfortunately for him, the Panthers pack just as much of a punch in their pass-rushing unit.
Burns heads the group and is coming off a magnificent performance with two sacks and four quarterback hits against the New York Giants in Week 2. The fourth-year defensive end will surely be aware of Winston's struggles in the pocket with heavy pressure and should notch at least one sack this game.
Given the shaky state of the Saints' offensive line, too, Burns could easily outmatch either of NOLA's tackles. Winston and the passing offense are already having a tough time generating chemistry and finding their rhythm, and Burns is out on a mission to exploit every one of their weaknesses.
Speaking of the Saints' ongoing issues on the offensive side of the ball, one Panthers defender could call lights out with a few game-changing picks in this matchup.
Jackson tweaked his hamstring against the New York Giants in Week 2 and is reportedly "day-to-day" with his injury, though he could come back in time to face the Saints.
Donte Jackson has racked up 12 interceptions in his Panthers career, and he's no doubt eyeing a delectable matchup against one of the league's most turnover-prone quarterbacks.
Winston threw three picks against Tampa Bay, and the Panthers are willing to bet he will remain the same inconsistent signal-caller in Week 3. Carolina's secondary is chockful of productive playmakers, yet Jackson stands out above the rest as a very savvy and experienced corner.
Michael Thomas and Chris Olave will work on trying to get open looks yet Jackson and company could effectively shut down the Saints' downfield threats and take home the dub.
Come Week 3, the Saints' passing attack will need all the help it can get, but the Panthers' defense won't show a single ounce of mercy. Fingers crossed Winston can take care of the football this time...