This Sunday the Carolina Panthers square off against the New Orleans Saints in a rare NFC South playoff match up. Both teams finished with a respectable 11-5 record, though you would not know it from the mood of the Carolina Panthers fan community lately. After two consecutive weeks of awful offensive production and key injuries to the wide receivers corps, it seems Panthers fans are ready to throw in the towel.
Not so fast.
Let us not pretend that the New Orleans Saints have looked like a dominant football team over the past few weeks. Afterall, they lost their season finale to a injury decimated non-playoff team when the division was on the line. That doesn’t exactly scream dominance, does it? To say that the Carolina Panthers have no chance in this match simply is not true.
For me, the most significant change from the first two meeting between these teams this season is the loss of Saints linebacker AJ Klein. If you go back and watch the film from last year, you will see Klein practically calling the offensive plays for his defense. Klein had no issue getting the ball carrier as he knew where they would be even before the ball was snapped.
The importance of Klein’s loss cannot be overstated in terms of facing the Carolina Panthers in particular. It is, in essence, a game changer. You can effectively take the first two games and toss them into the trash receptacle.
For the Panthers to win this game, they will need to start fast on offense with early touchdowns to keep the Superdome crowd noise in check. If they can do that, they have a chance. On the other hand, if Ron Rivera plans to play conservative with long grinding drives that will ultimately result in a field goal, well then the game is over before it has begun.
For the purposes of this article, I am going to assume the Carolina Panthers coaching staff realizes this will be a high scoring game, if only on the New Orleans Saints side of things. The Carolina Panthers cannot believe 20 points should win this game, because it won’t.
My head says Saints. But my heart is telling me Cam Newton dominates this game and puts up a victory.
I’m going with my heart.
New Orleans Saints – 31
Carolina Panthers – 34Agree? Disagree? You can sound off right here with thousands of Carolina Panthers fans.