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Week 5 Preview: Panthers vs. Saints

The Carolina Panthers (1-3) are hoping to bounce back from their Week 4 loss against the Chicago Bears. However, a win will be no easy task as they will be welcoming NFC South foe the New Orleans Saints (3-1) into Bank of America Stadium on Sunday. To read all about Sunday’s preview continue to read on.

On the surface, many NFL followers may see this game as a sure-win for the Saints. However, the Panthers have been very competitive in every game this season. The Panthers went toe to toe with the defending Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 and there is no reason to think that they will not be able to give the Saints a run for their money as well.

Sunday’s game will display two of the NFL’s elite passing teams as Cam Newton comes into the game with 1,386 passing yards and Drew Brees has already accumulated 1,410 yards through the air. Most assuredly Sunday’s game will be an all-out aerial assault on the two defenses. Lets look at the keys to the game for each team:

Panthers Offensive Game Plan:

The Panthers will continue to be a pass-first team. Carolina currently has the number three passing offense averaging 334 yards per game. Steve Smith has already hauled in 24 receptions for 530 yards and two touchdowns. It can be assumed that the Saints will use a safety to double-team Smith. Therefore, the Panthers need other receivers to step up if they have any hope of being competitive. I would expect to see the Panthers use a variety of formations to exploit Smith’s double coverage. Using a two tight-end set makes a lot of sense seeing the Panthers have two legitimate targets in Greg Olsen and former Saint, Jeremy Shockey.

The Panthers are hoping that the running game continues to pick up steam. Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, and Cam Newton combined for 169 rushing yards in Week 4 against the Bears. The Panthers will have a hard time establishing the run, however, because the Saints touts the NFL’s number nine rush defense. Greg Williams’ stingy defense has only allowed an average of 94 yards.

Panthers Defensive Game Plan:

The Panthers are facing arguably their toughest test yet going up against a Saints offense that is 2nd in the NFL in passing and 10th overall in rushing. The Saints will look to exploit an embarrassing Carolina run defense that currently ranks 31st in the league allowing over 140 yards a game. The fact that the Panthers allowed Chicago running-back, Matt Forte to rack up 205 yards in Week 4 should make New Orleans’ running back committee of Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Darren Sproles salivate.

The Panthers will have just as hard of a time stopping Brees and the Saints through the air. Even though the Panthers currently have the leagues 6th best passing defense, the Saints have a variety of weapons at the wide receiver position, an up and coming elite tight end in Jimmy Graham, and a versatile back in Sproles who can catch the ball out of the backfield.

The best bet for the Panthers to remain competitive in Sunday’s game is to limit big plays and come out with a couple of turnovers.

New Orleans Saints Offensive Game Plan:

The Saints could have a field day with the Panthers run defense. Their three headed monster of Ingram, Thomas, and Sproles could easily rush for over 200 yards against a Carolina front line that has many holes and a linebacking core who is missing their two best linebackers in Jon Beason and Thomas Davis. I would fully expect the Saints to be a run-first team on Sunday and use the run to set-up play action pass plays that they could convert into big plays.

New Orleans Defensive Game Plan:

The most important thing for the Saints defense to do on Sunday is to contain Steve Smith and not allow him to beat them. Another key ingriedient for a Saints win will be limiting big plays on the part of Carolina’s offense. The Saints defense comes in with the leagues #9 run defense and the #19 pass defense. The Saints will also need to limit the Panther’s red-zone trips to field goals.

Prediction:

I think Sunday’s game will be an offensive explosion with the Saints coming out of Charlotte with a 38-27 victory.

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