The (11-5) Carolina Panthers will travel to New Orleans to play the (11-5) Saints on Sunday afternoon as a 7-point underdog. After three straight seasons of 7-9 records, New Orleans is in the post-season for the first time in 3 years. The Panthers finished 15-1 two seasons ago before losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, 24-10. Last year, Carolina had a terrible season, going 6-10 but both teams think they are ready to make another championship run.
Carolina on Offense:
Two years ago, quarterback, Cam Newton won the NFL’s MVP Award. He had 46 total touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Last season he took a step back, he had 24 total touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Newton had 28 total touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 2017. Carolina does not pass the ball very well at all, they finished 28th in passing offense but 4th in rushing offense. Newton led this team in rushing with 754 yards, Jonathan Stewart had 680 yards and rookie Christian McCaffery rushed for 435 yards and had 80 catches for 651 yards. WR, Devin Funchess had 63 receptions and 8 touchdowns. TE, Greg Olsen who is coming off an injury only had 17 catches on the season. But when healthy,he is a legitimate number 1 threat on offense.
Carolina on Defense:
Luke Kuechly led this team once again with 125 tackles. He anchors this defense and never seems to be out of position. Carolina was ranked 8th overall in defense and can get to the quarterback at anytime during the game. The Panthers were 3rd on defense with 50 sacks on the year.
Saints on Offense:
For over a decade this has been Drew Brees team, the Saints lived and died by their passing attack. All that changed this year. The Saints are a “Ground and Pound” team. They run the ball with speed and power. Rookie, Alvin Kamara became one of only 4 rookie running backs in the history of the NFL to have over 600 rushing and 600 receiving yards. Kamara had 13 total touchdowns and 81 catches on the year. Mark Ingram had 1,124 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Drew Brees passed for over 4,300 yards, 23 touchdowns and completed 72% of his passes. WR, Michael Thomas is a great #1 option in the passing game. He had 5 touchdowns, 1,245 receiving yards and 104 receptions. There isn’t anything this team can’t do offensively.
Saints on Defense:
For the past few years the Saints defense has been one of the worst in the NFL. The improved drastically this season and finished ranked 17th They may not be the best in the league, but they can be very effective. They had 42 sacks which was ranked 7th and had 20 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries. This team has a little bit of “swag” on defense and feel they can get turnovers when they need them.
The Saints started the season 0-2. The finished the year 11-3 and have been one of the most consistent teams after their first two games. Sean Peyton should get consideration for coach of the year. He has totally transformed this team from a passing first offense to a well-balanced team on both side of the ball. The Saints at home will make some huge plays in this game and they lead from start to finish.
Take New Orleans 31… Panthers 17
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