4 keys to victory for the Panthers vs. Saints in Week 17

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Teddy Bridgewater
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Teddy Bridgewater /
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Carolina Panthers
(Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) Rodney Smith /

Don’t abandon the run

The Carolina Panthers will be without the services of Mike Davis in addition to long-term absentee Christian McCaffrey at the running back spot in their season finale. New Orleans is also struggling significantly in this area of the field due to COVID-19 complications, so if pounding the rock is your preferred method of football, then you might want to avert your eyes from the game at Bank of America Stadium.

Despite not having their primary two rushers available, Carolina must not go away from the run game. Giving undrafted rookie Rodney Smith the bulk of carries will be invaluable in terms of deciding just what sort of future he has with the organization moving forward, with Trenton Cannon and Curtis Samuel also likely to see some work in the backfield.

The less pressure on Teddy Bridgewater’s shoulders, the better.

And running the ball efficiently will go a long way to achieving this.

The Saints are giving up an average of 95.2 yards-per-game on the round – ranked No. 4 in the NFL – and Carolina managed to achieve 34 yards from 14 carries in the first encounter between the NFC South divisional rivals this season.

It will be difficult for Smith and others, of that there is little doubt. But the Panthers will never get a better chance to see what they have with the former Minnesota standout and should at least give him the opportunity to shine against top-class opposition.