Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints
The first divisional battle of the campaign sees two former No. 1 overall selections clashing at Bank of America Stadium. Jameis Winston will once again lead the New Orleans Saints in the immediate aftermath of Sean Payton’s departure, with Baker Mayfield also looking for a road to redemption in 2022.
Mayfield’s transition has gone far better than many anticipated this offseason. He’s picked up the scheme quickly, integrated well with teammates, and also looks far more focused on football than at any stage during his four years on the Cleveland Browns.
Once again, this is a chance to set the tone and stake a claim within the NFC South. Carolina isn’t seen as a leading contender by anyone, but that might change if they can get a few wins in the column early in the season.
The Saints remain strong after some significant salary-cap maneuvering. One or two key departures left, but New Orleans also managed to acquire some intriguing individuals such as Jarvis Landry, Tyrann Mathieu, and Marcus Maye to bolster their hopes.
Prediction: Win (3-0)
This will be a game of fine margins, one suspects. But coming through in close contests such as this is exactly why the Panthers brought Mayfield into the fold, to begin with.