Fireworks. Fury. Flailing around.
Expect all of that Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where New Orleans and Carolina will play what should at least be an entertaining game.
The Saints seem to field roughly the same team every year – great offense, terrible defense. This year they are ranked dead last in points allowed (32.5 per game) but are fourth in scoring average (28.5) and second in passing offense (304.3). It’s easy to forget all the Panthers’ close calls of 2015, but one of the closest was in New Orleans. Carolina escaped with a 41-38 victory in December.
New Orleans has managed to win a game 35-34 and lose a game 35-34 in the same season. That’s not easy to do. Both the Saints and the Panthers have only one win in 2016, so each will have a tinge of desperation.
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▪ How long has New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, 37, been around? Long enough for 74 different offensive players to have caught a pass from him. That includes Brees himself, who has caught his own pass off of a deflection before.
▪ Is it not time for Ted Ginn Jr. to do something positive on a punt return? The Panthers average only 5.6 yards per return, which is 31st in the NFL. The punt return team’s one notable play this season was Teddy Williams managing to run into Ginn against Tampa Bay, forcing a lost fumble by his own teammate. To avoid such a thing, I would advocate the Panthers using Colin Jones as a personal protector for Ginn on every punt.
▪ If you were to ask me for the most important play of this Panthers’ season so far, I’d go with the first-quarter sack by Minnesota of Cam Newton in the end zone for a safety on Sept. 25. Up until then, Carolina was 1-1 on the season and ahead 10-0 over a Vikings team that has turned out to be one of the best in the NFL.
Including that safety, though, Carolina has been outscored 87-47 ever since and hasn’t won a game.
▪ Prediction time. These Panthers have been wildly unpredictable, or else I’m a terrible guesser. Or maybe both.
I got the outcome of Carolina’s first two games right and have missed the past three – in each case, choosing Carolina to win a game that it lost. It’s difficult to beat the Saints in the Superdome, especially with a struggling secondary. The return of Cam Newton will give Carolina a chance, though. My pick: New Orleans 33, Carolina 27.
Fowler: 704-358-5140; Twitter: @scott_fowler