Thursday, September 30, 2010

Week Four Preview: Saints Host the Panthers

As this is election season (my other passion aside from Saints football), this preview is a bit abbreviated….kind of like the Saints’ offense as of late.

Amazingly enough the boys in Vegas had the Saints as a 15 point favorite at one time. USA Today oddsmaker Danny Sheridan has the Black and Gold giving the Panthers 13.5, a sign that the money is moving to Carolina. I would feel a lot more comfortable giving the 15 points, though a shy under two TDs and two extra points might also be a safe proposition.

I know the Panthers are awful and they are in the early stages of rebuilding and they have a quarterback controversy…or something along those lines.

But how about this for a reality check: the New Orleans Saints offense, the turbo-charged big playmakers of the past four seasons, haven’t scored more than 25 points this season and their two wins were by margins of 5 and 3. Granted all three of Carolina’s losses/games played were by 13 points (an unlucky coincidence for soon to be departing head coach John Fox).

The Saints found ways to lose to Atlanta and needed lucky breaks out of the boardgame Mousetrap to slip past the San Francisco Forty-Niners. And while the Saints don’t have a quarterback controversy, they do have a kicker controversy.

The Saints offensive line have not provided quarterback Drew Brees with the protection he needs to launch the ball, his receivers (Lance Moore and Jeremy Shockey excluded) have been suffering with a case of the “Deverys” and the running back corps has been decimated by injuries.

The defense has not had much success stopping the run and have not broken through to opposing quarterbacks regularly.

A winning record might be accomplished through some very ugly wins in this season.

Though the Carolina franchise is only 15 years old, they’ve compiled a winning record against the Saints in 30 contests. Saints head coach Sean Payton has only 2 wins against the Panthers.

Expect the Panthers to test the Saints’ front seven on the ground, though the Saints offensive line should have some success keeping the Panthers off of Brees now that Julius Peppers is in Chicago. Though he had some touches last weekend, including an unfortunate fumble, rookie running back will see a lot of action if only be default. Kicker Garrett Hartley isn’t the only player on the bubble right now and the Saints front office will drop Ivory from the roster before Hartley.

Ivory made the best of the opportunities that fell his way in training camp when players ahead of him went down with season ending injuries. Here’s the undrafted rookie free agent’s chance to parlay those breaks into something.

While the Panthers are desperate for a win, the Saints are desperate not to lose. Dropping another intra-divisional game with the Falcons leading by one would dig a deeper hole for the defending world champions.

However the Panthers could be the softies the Saints could exploit to establish themselves and gain some confidence.

While the Saints should win on Sunday, it could end up being closer than most fans nerves can handle…at least sober.

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