Saints vs Panthers: Matchups that will decide Week 3

Grant Halverson/GettyImages

With the New Orleans Saints' Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay now behind us, let's shift our focus onto the Week 3 bout with the Carolina Panthers. Let's dive into the key matchups to watch in this NFC South matchup.

These matchups are more than likely going to be what determines this game, so let's check them out!

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Saints' Linebacking Corps vs. Christian McCaffrey

Christian McCaffrey is used in an abundance of ways for the Carolina offense and this week should be no different despite McCaffrey's lingering ankle issue. We saw the Saints put together a masterpiece in the run game this past week limiting Bucs' RB Leonard Fournette, who had previously gashed the Dallas Cowboys for 127 rushing yards and 6 yards/attempt, to a mere 65 yards on 2.7 yards/attempt.

With the interior wrecking havoc, it will be up to the Saints' linebacking corps to prevent McCaffrey from erupting in the passing game. Demario Davis is as solid as it comes when discussing the linebacker position but it is Pete Werner who I'm truly intrigued to see this week.

Werner is quietly having a stellar sophomore season, showing flashes through the first two weeks as well as being tied for the league lead in tackles with Vikings S Harrison Smith. In order to prevent Panthers QB Baker Mayfield and McCaffrey from developing an early rhythm this week in the passing game, be on the lookout for Davis and Werner to drop back into coverage frequently and for Werner to continue his breakout campaign.

James Hurst vs. Brian Burns

It should come as no surprise that this is a key matchup this week as the Saints have now given up 10 sacks through the first two weeks of this season. With Trevor Penning sidelined, James Hurst has been thrust into the starting LT role and unfortunately has not shown much promise yet.

When Hurst and the Saints' offense hit the field in Charlotte this weekend, he will more than likely be facing off against, in my opinion, a vastly underrated pass rusher in Brian Burns. Burns, coming off of a two-sack game against New York, will be looking to capitalize on the weaknesses of the Saints' offensive line starting with James Hurst.

It will be key for Hurst to show some improvement this week as this offense will once again fall short if the offensive line cannot protect the quarterback.

Jameis Winston vs. Jameis Winston

It's no secret, Jameis Winston did not play well this past Sunday. Can we attribute some of the poor play to the multiple back fractures he's currently battling? Of course, but that does not excuse some of the poor playmaking decisions Winston made against Tampa.

There was a clear night and day difference in Winston's play from the fourth quarter in Atlanta to the Week 2 bout against Tampa. With rookie WR Chris Olave breaking through the stout Tampa secondary repeatedly, Winston could not connect which led to multiple missed opportunities for the Saints' offense. These missed opportunities as well as three second-half interceptions thrown by Winston all but put the nail in the coffin for the Saints in Week 2.

With that being said, it will be quite interesting to see how Winston performs this week and if he begins to struggle early, we may see Andy Dalton get called up to lead the offense while Winston fully recovers from his injuries.

dark. Next. All-Time Leaders in Passing Yards

Which of these matchups will be the most critical in Week 3?