Three Panthers to watch: New Orleans Saints (Volume 1)

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) D.J. Moore
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) D.J. Moore /

The Panthers were just embarrassed at home by a 2-7 Falcons team. If they were looking ahead to this week’s game in New Orleans, they better make it count.

The Panthers face a must-win game as they head to New Orleans for a match up with the division leading Saints. Although the season is not yet lost for Carolina at a record of 5-5, it feels it to many fans who have looked at the remaining schedule. Atlanta was supposed to be checked off as a win if the Panthers were to make a playoff push in the back half of the season. Now they face, yet another, uphill climb if they want to reach the postseason in 2019.

This can be a pivotal game for the franchise. Another poor outing from Kyle Allen can mean that back up rookie quarterback Will Grier gets an opportunity. Another poor outing from the Panthers can lead to an adjustment at head coach for the first time since 2011.

For better or for worse, importance tends to hinge on these match ups between the Panthers and the Saints. Here’s who I’ll be watching in a season-defining game for Carolina this Sunday.

WR DJ Moore

DJ Moore has been criminally underrated in his second season as a pro.

Through just ten games, Moore has already surpassed his rookie season total in targets and receptions. With Kyle Allen at quarterback, this is nothing to scoff at.

2018 (16 Games)

82 targets

55 receptions

788 yards

Two touchdowns

2019 (10 Games)

94 targets

62 receptions

779 yards

One touchdown

2019 (Full season projection)

150 targets

99 receptions

1246 yards

Two touchdowns

Looking ahead, imagine a third year Moore pairing up with a healthy Cam Newton in 2020. Make it happen, Mr. Tepper.  DJ will need to make some big plays in the dome if the Panthers are going to have any shot to win. I’ll be keeping an eye on if Moore is creating separation early.

CB Donte Jackson

Donte giveth, and Donte taketh away.

It’s been a roller coaster season for the second year cornerback out of LSU. For every time he gets absolutely toasted, Jackson makes an eye-popping tackle or game-changing pass deflection. That kind of up and down play is very reminiscent of former Panther Josh Norman’s early years as a zone corner in Ron Rivera’s system.

The Panthers will need Donte to be consistent on Sunday to stay competitive. This is a Saints offense that will pounce on any defensive mistakes, something the Panthers have been prone to this November. If wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is getting behind Donte early on, it’ll be a long day for Carolina.

QB Kyle Allen

Yes, Kyle Allen was absolutely awful against the Falcons. No, I don’t think hes the quarterback of the future in Carolina.

That being said, every NFL quarterback has had bad games. The ones who separate themselves from the rest are those who have the nuts to bounce back with a short memory. From everything teammates and coaches have said about Allen, a trait that always sticks out is his mental toughness.

Carolina needs Kyle Allen to be crisp and confident on Sunday if they are going to have any playoff hopes the rest of this season. If Allen can put together a mistake-free game, the Panthers may be able to squeak by and keep their season alive. If not, we may be taking a long look at Will Grier for the remaining five games.