What happened to the Carolina Panthers this season? After going 15-1 last season and making it to the Super Bowl, they are off to a 3-6 start this season and are facing a must-win a week before Thanksgiving this year. How did this come about? There have been several factors.
First, they stupidly let star cornerback Josh Norman walk. Big mistake. A shut down corner just makes a defense so much better. Safeties are free to play centerfield, read the quarterbacks eyes and pick passes off. Last season, the Panthers defense was a turnover machine. This year, not so much.
Second, there is a book now on Cam Newton after the Super Bowl. You put pressure on him, you hit him, and you hit him hard. Stop the first down run, get him in passing downs and then bring the heat. He has taken several big hits this year, some which may have crossed the line on what is allowed on quarterbacks that were not flagged, but many just plain good hits. These are taking their toll as Cam has been hurt several times. He missed the Tampa Bay game with a concussion and the Panthers lost a tight one there. They’d love to have that one back right now.
Third, the schedule was pretty light last year, not so much this year. The other three teams in the NFC South have gotten better and the out of division schedule has had some really tough games. Can they rally and get back into the playoff hunt? They still have a lot of talent there. But if it is to happen, they must win on Thursday.
The Saints started 0-3 but since then have gone 4-2. However, the Saints have to come in a bit wounded because that could easily have been 5-1 in the last six games. They lost on Sunday to the Denver Broncos after a potential game winning extra point was blocked and returned for a two-point conversion for Denver. Instead of winning 24-23 and going into this game at 5-4, they lost 25-23. Ouch!
The Saints need this one as well because a loss drops them to 4-6 and makes getting into the playoffs very difficult. Drew Brees is still playing quarterback at a high level, so if he gets them there, the Saints could be very dangerous.
These two had a shootout earlier this year in New Orleans with the saints winning 41-38. If nothing else, we should get a game between two teams that are evenly matched. Watching desperate teams late in the season who do not like each other much is always fun.
We like Carolina to take it tonight. Look for Cam to light it up.