Week 3 is here and the New Orleans Saints (0-2) travel to Charlotte, N.C. to face off against the Carolina Panthers (2-0) on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET and the game will be televised on FOX. This marks the first time for both teams facing off against an NFC South team this season. While both teams are opposite in their record, they both share a common problem. The offenses have not looked impressive.
Now two years removed from his MVP season, quarterback Cam Newton has not looked like the same player from 2015. Injuries have continued to plague him into this season, most recently with an ankle injury last week. Newton only has two passing touchdowns and a QBR of 85.3 through three games. And that has been the entirety of the offense for the Panthers.
Coach Ron Rivera has yet to figure out how to use both the veteran running back Jonathan Stewart and rookie running back Christian McCaffery together. So far, Stewart has been used as the between the tackles back and McCaffery has been a third-down back or lining up at receiver. Surprisingly, Stewart holds the only touchdown between them catching one in week 1. The rushing game overall has averaged 96 yards per game, with 2.9 yards per play. And this has been against two of the worst defenses from last season per points allowed.
The good thing for the Panthers has been their defense. They have not allowed a touchdown in two games and held both the San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills each to just a field goal. And it has been about making consistent stops, as they hold teams to a 25 percent third down average with only 23 first downs given up in total. Keeping those numbers up against someone like quarterback Drew Brees will be a tough task.
Like the Panthers, the Saints have also had trouble getting their two-man running game going. Neither Mark Ingram nor Adrian Peterson have been able to establish themselves in the Saints offense through two games. The rushing game averages just over 70 per game with no touchdowns so far. Do not expect this game to be where they figure it out, with the likes of linebacker Luke Kuechly and defense tackle Kawann Short lining up defensively for the Panthers.
The bright spots in the offense have been the emergence of running back Alvin Kamara out of the backfield and wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. Kamara has had more catches so far, but Lewis has made great catches in traffic for big yards. Look for them to be weapon for Brees as the season continues.
As much as the Saints need a win, it would be a big surprise to see them get the first this week. The Panthers defense has shown they can make stops and get their offense back on the field. And as Cam Newton gets healthier, he will get better and the offense will improve. The Saints need a lot of plays to go their way to win this one.
Prediction: Carolina Panthers win 31-20
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