5 keys to victory for the Carolina Panthers vs. Saints in Week 2

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Joe Brady
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Joe Brady /
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Sam Darnold
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /

Carolina Panthers must get the running game going early

How do you beat a top-ranked pass defense? You don’t throw the ball downfield.

Getting into a shootout against a team the just made Aaron Rodgers look like Ryan Leaf is never a good idea. The Carolina Panthers just may be the best setup for this in today’s NFL with the tandem of Christian McCaffrey and Chuba Hubbard leading the charge.

There were some concerns with McCaffrey coming off a lost year due to multiple injuries that don’t do kind things to the longevity of a running back’s career. But those are all but forgotten after another dominant performance that cemented the former All-Pro as the best in the league.

However, while the Panthers’ defense was impressive against the run in Week 1, the Saints were just as good.

I’ve spoken before about trying to go against the strength of the opposition and how unwise that is, but when a team has no obvious weakness you have to pick your poison. And when that is either putting Sam Darnold against a top secondary or McCaffrey against a top rush defense, do the math on that one.

But that isn’t all on the shoulders of McCaffrey, the offensive line must do its part and actually look like they belong in the NFL, or it’s a moot point.

The level of penetration allowed against a New York Jets team that had no business being in anyone’s backfield was unacceptable and the Saints front is going to be no cakewalk.

At this point, who knows how to fix this mess of a group. But something needs to happen – and fast – or this team will crumble and falter to another losing season.

But in the end, the running game will be the key for both teams as they look to limit the opportunities of their historically turnover-prone quarterbacks. Whoever can get this area of play going early and often will come away with the win.