4 big-time matchups to watch during Panthers vs. Saints in Week 2

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /

Shaq Thompson vs. Alvin Kamara

Many were the questions about how Shaq Thompson would perform after what could graciously be called a down year. Those questions were largely answered with a dominant performance for the embattled outside linebacker.

Thompson looked comfortable and showed the kind of production that has kept him around since 2015. The former first-rounder had 10 total tackles, three pass defenses, a sack, and an interception. Not necessarily a quiet day.

Losing the burden of a subpar running mate alongside him surely helped boost his confidence against a team that should have been ripe for those opportunities.

With that being said, however, this game will be the true test.

While New Orleans has a severe lack of talent at the wide receiver position, they still have a pretty good running back in Alvin Kamara.

Even with only 83 yards against the Green Bay Packers, when you take into account the rest of the Saints running backs, the room had more yardage than Jameis Winston threw for and that is a large anomaly in today’s NFL.

Take away one long bomb on a blown coverage and that difference is even more staggering.

With that reliance on the run and the liability at receiver, the focus will be put squarely on Thompson the linebacker unit to contain Kamara. As well as shut down the Saints’ tight end group which accounted for the great majority of their passing yardage.

If Thompson can nullify the outside running and screen game that Kamara thrives upon, more pressure will be put on Winston than what the Saints would care for and that has historically been a recipe for turnovers.

This also was a great strength for the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 as the New York Jets only managed a paltry 45 total rushing yards, causing Zach Wilson to try and win it with his arm.

But the Saints are no Jets.

If the Panthers can contain the run and shift the focus squarely onto Winston, they just may have a chance of coming away with a huge confidence-building victory against the most dominant team of Week 1.