Tom Sorensen

Prediction for Panthers at Saints? Fans, venue won’t be the problem. This is.

I don’t care if the New Orleans Saints have beaten the Carolina Panthers twice this season. I don’t care that the Panthers have won three of seven games in the Superdome and are 12-11 in New Orleans.

On Sunday, New Orleans will be a tough, tough place to play. Kickoff is at 4:40 p.m., and fans are preparing now. There’s a crazed quality to the crowd, as there is to the city, and I admire it.

But fans aren’t Carolina’s problem. Carolina’s problem is that New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees has a new option this season: The handoff. Alvin Kamara is a hip-shaking, tackle-breaking rookie phenomenon. When he isn’t handed the ball, veteran Mark Ingram is. The Saints are fifth in the NFL in rushing.

Brees, meanwhile, is a point guard of a quarterback. He runs a quick twitch offense and gets rid of the ball as quickly as any passer in the league.

I love the Panthers defense, and I like the offense. But to keep up with the Saints, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton will have to consistently make big how’d-he-do-that plays with his arm and feet, and offensive coordinator Mike Shula will have to put him in position to.

I know you don’t like Shula. But when did you like a Carolina offensive coordinator? You haven’t.

The pressure on the Panthers’ offense will be overwhelming. Carolina has the toughest assignment of any of the four teams on the road this weekend. New Orleans will beat Carolina by 9.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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