New Orleans Saints (3-2) vs.Carolina Panthers (3-3)
Sunday, Oct. 25, Noon
TV: FOX WVUE FOX 8
Radio: WWL 105.3 FM/870 AM; Spanish KGLA 105.7 FM/830 AM
Saints return from bye with big divisional game on the line
After starting 0-2 and losing superstar running back Christian McCaffrey in the process, many thought the Carolina Panthers would be left for dead, but they’ve surprised by going 3-1 since. A lot of their success can be attributed to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who as the Saints backup QB last season led the team to a 5-0 mark while Drew Brees was sidelined with an injury to his throwing hand. In the offseason he signed a 3-year, $60 million contract with Carolina. On Sunday, he will lead the surprising 3-3 Panthers into the Superdome to face the 3-2 Saints.
New Orleans is looking to shake loose the early season cobwebs that have kept the team from performing a peak efficiency. Injuries and mental mistakes have plagued the team through the first five games, but players are saying the bye week has given them a chance to rest, get healthy, self-evaluate, and improve.
The offense is scoring an average of 30.6 points per game, but it hasn’t been the juggernaut they’ve been in previous seasons. Playing behind a beat up O line and missing reigning Offensive Player of the Year wide receiver Michael Thomas due to an ankle injury, Brees has had to acquaint himself with receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Tre’Quan Smith. Both have steadily increased their contributions to the team’s attack. When Thomas returns Brees will have three receivers and tight end Jared Cook. He trusts and is in sync with each of them, and the passing game should become much more lethal.
The Bears ended the Panthers three-game win streak last week, 23-16, and Carolina is looking to get back to its winning ways. They’ll lean on Bridgewater to manage the game and limit mistakes. On the season, he is completing 70.9% of his passes for 1,676 yards, 6 TDs, and 5 INTs. Last season with the much more talented Saints, he threw for 1,384 yards, 9 TDs, and 2 INTs. Bridgewater has had 300+ passing yards in 2 of his 3 road games in 2020, and is looking for his third straight on the road with a 100+ QB rating. He’ll lean on WR Robby Anderson and RB Mike Davis to keep the chains moving.
Carolina’s defense hasn’t been outstanding, but they aren’t a bad squad.
New head coach Matt Rhule would love to get a win to get his team above .500. It would be a remarkable start, but sports books favor the Saints, who are looking to keep pace with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South.
At the Line of Scrimmage
When the Saints have the ball
The Saints are averaging 30.6 points, 5th best in the NFL and 12th in the league with 378.4 yards per game, 263.4 through the air and 115.0 on the ground. They should be able to move the ball against the Panthers defense, which is giving up an average of 23.5 points (13th in the league) and 340.5 yards per game (11th in the NFL). They are 18th against the run (121.7) and 7th in passing defense (218.8).
When the Panthers have the ball
Carolina ranks 11th in total offense with 383.5 yards per game, however they’re 23rd in scoring average (23.0). They’re 12th in rushing with 125.3 yards per game and 7th in passing (275.0).
The Saints D is giving up 30.0 points per game (24th in the NFL). They rank 8th in the league in total defense (337.4 ypg), tied for 6th in rushing defense (100.2.5) and 18th in passing (237.2).
Goal to Geaux
Establishing the run game with a combined attack from Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray will be crucial to getting this win. The Saints would like to manage the clock and keep Carolina’s defense on the field. If they can establish the ground game and pull the defense closer to the line of scrimmage, multiple lanes should open up for Bress to exploit in the passing game.
The defense will need to continue to bottle the run and increase the heat on the quarterback. Bridgewater will make mistakes pressure. The D needs to force the issue.
Three & Out – Thoughts on Week 6
- After hearing for weeks that Michael Thomas would return from a sprained ankle injury after the bye, its disheartening to learn he’s dealing with a hamstring injury, too.
- The Saints may have stolen a win from the Chargers in their come from behind overtime thriller. They’ve had to do that a couple of times this season. Hopefully the offense is on the same page as the team is entering the thick of the 2020 season.
- Alvin Kamara has been worth every penny of the 5-year, $75 million contract he signed before the season. If this is Brees’ last season, expect him to become the face of the franchise.
Quotes of the Week
“We’ve overcome some early obstacles. And yet in fairness to the evaluation, we haven’t played near what I think we’re capable of playing. And that’s the one thing that I’m anxious to answer this question again in eight weeks.”– Saints head coach Sean Payton on the team’s first six weeks of the season
“That is what comes with this league. Guys go down, guys got to step up and fill in. But when he gets back, and he gets back in the swing of things, it’ll be back to regular.” – Saints running back Alvin Kamara on wide receiver Michael Thomas’ return after being injured Week 1
“Shoot, double team, triple teams, sometimes shift the whole O line over to him, wide receiver chips. It’s just one of those things where he’s a beast. So you’ve got to try to stop him anyway that you can…. It’s they’re making it just a little bit harder. And you can see, he’s killing it, he’s starting to get his thing and stack them up.” – Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport on opponents attempts to keep Cameron Jordan from getting to their quarterback
Inside the NFC South
W L T Win % PF PA DIV
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4 2 0 0.667 177 112 1-1
New Orleans Saints 3 2 0 0.600 153 150 1-0
Carolina Panthers 3 3 0 0.500 138 141 1-1
Atlanta Falcons 1 5 0 0.167 162 184 0-1
Atlanta Falcons (1-5) vs. Detroit Lions (2-3)
The Falcons won their first game of the season last week after naming Raheem Morris interim head coach. They jumped out to a 23-0 lead before beating the Minnesota Vikings 40-23. This week they are on the road against a Detroit team looking to climb to .500. The Lions are favored. Atlanta has a potentially potent offense, and their D is hoping to replicate last week’s effort where they held the Vikings to 32 rushing yards and had three interceptions.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) at Las Vegas Raiders (3-2)
Last week Tampa looked like the team experts expected them to be when the whipped the Green Bay Packers 38-10. The week before they were a dud in a 20-19 loss to the Bears. The Raiders have had big wins against the Saints and Chiefs, but their offensive line was hit with COVID-19 this week and depth may be an issue. The Saints need help from the Raiders in this one to keep pace in the NFC South race.
NFC Playoff Picture
Below are the current NFC standings through Week 5. The NFL expanded its playoff format from 12 to 14 teams for the 2020 season. Each conferencewill have seven playoff teams–four division champions and three wild card teams. Only the top seed from each conference will have a first-round playoff bye.
Seed Team Division W L T
1 Seahawks West 5 0 0
2 Bears North 5 1 0
3 Buccaneers South 4 2 0
4 Cowboys East 2 4 0
5 Packers North 4 1 0
6 Cardinals West 4 2 0
7 Rams West 4 2 0
8 Saints South 3 2 0
9 Panthers South 3 3 0
10 49ers West 3 3 0
11 Lions North 2 3 0
12 Eagles East 2 4 1
13 Washington East 1 5 0
14 Falcons South 1 5 0
15 Vikings North 1 5 0
16 Giants East 1 6 0
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, 41, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady, 43, are all in on cementing their legacies in the NFL history books and continuing their assault on the NFL career records for passing touchdowns and yardage. Brees is well ahead on yards, but leads Brady in TDs by one.
Rank Player TDs Yards
1 Brees 556 78,747
2 Brady 555 76,112
The Extra Point: Fans, Finally
The New Orleans Saints and Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced this week that they will begin allowing a limited number of fans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome starting with 3,000 Who Dats at this Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers.
If current health trends in the city continue to remain stable, the crowd can climb to 6,000 fans for both the Nov. 15 San Francisco and Nov. 22 Atlanta home games. If things go well, 15,000 would be able to attend the or the Dec. 20 Kansas City and Dec. 25 Minnesota home games.
Mayor Cantrell’s office will strictly enforce crowd gatherings throughout the Central Business District and French Quarter on game days to ensure all city regulations are being observed and is encouraging all to wear a mask while in public, practice good hygiene and maintain social distance.
The fight against the pandemic is important. Nearly 225,000 Americans have perished as a result of the virus. Louisiana has not seen the recent uptick in cases that surrounding states have.
This is a big win. No doubt downtown merchants are thrilled with the news that people will be in the city on game day, especially a growing number as the holiday approach. We have opened a window to bit of a return to normal. But we must stay vigilant. This is a drive we must keep alive.