Craving Knowledge: Carolina Panthers vs Saints Fantasy Preview
Craving Knowledge is a weekly article on the CatCrave site which will be featured every Wednesday during the season. The weekly column will be a piece analyzing the Carolina Panthers’s players and their potential fantasy impact on both sides of the ball.
After last week’s error-filled defeat against the Minnesota Vikings, the Carolina Panthers, (though in contention for their league-worse division title) surely are not a team deserving of a playoff berth. One of the worst games of an already disappointing season, the Carolina Panthers were outplayed by the Minnesota Vikings on each front. The Carolina Panthers can begin the reversal of course by beating co-division leader, the New Orleans Saints in the Big Easy this week.
In my article last week, I predicted that Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers offense could make some headway against a Minnesota defense which was average against the rush and below average against the pass. I was completely incorrect in my prediction. After last week’s results, there is no reason to believe the passing game’s struggles should not continue. Cam Newton is unhealthy, and has been inconsistent throughout this year’s campaign. Against a division rival in New Orleans, (who played well defensively a week ago) ) the Carolina Panthers passing game will likely be grounded this week.
Though Roethlisberger struggled, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell had a career game against New Orleans. Unfortunately for the Carolina Panthers, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart at this point in their career do not have the talent or the offensive line of Bell to repeat a similar performance this week. Ranked 31st in rushing defense, the Saints have allowed an average of 122 yards a game this season. But, with the offensive line of the Carolina Panthers who have battled injury and insufficient play, Stewart or the questionable Williams will not have breakout games against New Orleans this week.
The bright spot of the Carolina Panthers offense, the passing game, had a quiet afternoon last week. The two best and most consistent receivers on the team, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen each had five receptions with Benjamin hauling in 59 yards and Olsen 56 yards. New Orleans has only allowed 19 passing touchdowns; and with the skilled Kenny Vaccaro roaming the defensive backfield, it would not be shocking to see if Benjamin and Olsen had similar games. Yet, the largest influence on the performance of the team’s wide receivers is Cam Newton. Against the Atlanta Falcons two weeks ago, Newton had time to hit his targets and did. Last week, Newton struggled against the Vikings pass rush and only completed 51 percent of his 35 throws. The Panthers two top receivers have routinely had solid performances this season (outside of games against the Seahawks and Saints earlier). The only question is if the two can record the spectacle performances seen earlier in the season or simply have an average game. As talented as the duo are, Cam Newton and the passing game has been in a free-fall for most the season and because of this, Benjamin and Olsen’s statistics have suffered because of this and probably will this week.
Drew Brees returned to the type of performance which best represented his Hall of Fame career last week against the Steelers; passing for five touchdowns with pinpoint accuracy. If the past two weeks of eight touchdowns to one interception are an indication that Brees has returned from early season struggles, it could not occur at any worst time for a Carolina Panthers team grasping at one last attempt to make a run for the division title.
In their earlier match-up, the Carolina Panthers defense was able to intercept Brees, though he had a completion percentage of 70 percent and threw a touchdown. With a collection of talented wideouts around him, Brees has the luxury of making anyone of his wide receivers the star of the game. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago, it was Kenny Stills. This week, against a Carolina Panthers secondary which has been average in the pass few weeks, Brees has a skilled group which includes: Stills, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, and Robert Meachem. The Carolina Panthers secondary has been “bend don’t break” for most of the season, but with so many threats outnumbering the defensive backs of the Panthers, Brees hot stretch is likely to continue this week.
For nearly a decade, Drew Brees has been the face of the Saints and a torturer for the Carolina Panthers. Yet, in the team’s earlier victory over the Carolina Panthers, it was running back Mark Ingram who sealed the Carolina fate. Pounding the rock 30 times for 100 yards and two scores, Ingram, behind a strong New Orleans offensive line, gashed the Panthers defense in their week 9 game. Against the Vikings, the Panthers allowed leading rusher Matt Asiata only 52 yards. Having been exposed on Sunday night with the performance of Ingram nearly a month ago and with Luke Kuechly leading a front seven which has been aggressive in the past few weeks, the Carolina Panthers defense should not let Ingram replicate his earlier performance against the team.