Five fearless predictions for Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game against the New Orleans Saints:
1. Ted Ginn Jr. will get behind the Panthers defense.
Ted Ginn Jr. loves facing his former teams. Remember how he stared down the San Francisco bench after a big punt return in 2013? Ginn is 32 now and has caught only one longish pass for the Saints, but he still has dangerous speed. Sean Payton likes to put his fast receivers in the slot and send them deep. So look for Ginn to be matched up vs. nickel Captain Munnerlyn during a key spot in Sunday’s game.
2. Ed Dickson will create space vs. Saints linebackers.
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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had a big day (six catches, 116 yards and a touchdown) last week against New Orleans. Gronkowski did a lot of damage vs. rookie linebacker Alex Anzalone (although ex-Panthers LB A.J. Klein is limited in coverage, as well). Dickson, taking over for the injured Greg Olsen, obviously is not on the same level as Gronkowski. But he’s sneaky fast and athletic enough to get open against the Saints.
3. Cameron Jordan will give Daryl Williams a tough time.
The Saints again have plenty of holes on their defense (more on that later). But defensive end Cameron Jordan is not one of them. Jordan, who will line up on the left side opposite Williams, is one of the league’s elite pass-rushers. The Panthers likely will have to let Dickson help Williams on occasion. And while the New Orleans’ rush won’t overwhelm Carolina the way Buffalo’s did, Jordan will have a sack and at least one other hit on Cam Newton.
4. Julius Peppers will make a play in a different way.
Saints quarterback and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees is a master at creating passing lanes by getting defensive linemen to leave their feet with pump fakes and jukes in the pocket. But Peppers has played Brees enough to know his tricks, and has four career sacks against him. Plus, at 6-7, Peppers doesn’t have to leave his feet to be effective. Look for Peppers to get his hands on a Brees pass that the Panthers will pick off for their second interception of the season.
5. The Panthers defense will finally yield a TD.
This matchup features the league’s No. 1 ranked defense against the worst. The Saints have allowed an incredible 512.5 yards per game in losses to Minnesota and New England. Meanwhile, the Panthers are trying to become the first team since the 1937 Bears to allow three points or fewer in each of their first three games. The Panthers won’t reach that mark, as Brees will get the Saints into the end zone at least twice. But the Carolina defense will hold up well in its first true test of the season. Panthers 27, Saints 20.
Saints at Panthers
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
Sunday, 1 p.m.
FOX (Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink).