The Carolina Panthers have been dominant defensively through two games, but they’ll get a tougher test when they host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The Saints have struggled to an 0-2 start but still boast one of the league’s most productive offenses.
New Orleans ranks third in the NFL in total offense (386.5 yards per game), but the defense has been abysmal, allowing an average of 512.5 yards in losses to Minnesota and New England. “These guys are grown men, and they understand the sense of urgency we have to play with and we have to practice with now starting with two losses,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton told reporters. The Panthers have been the opposite, as they’ve allowed a single field goal in each of their first two games and lead the league in total defense (196.5) but have been slow to get going offensively. The Panthers have controlled the series in recent years, winning four of the last five meetings.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Panthers -5.5. O/U: 46.5
ABOUT THE SAINTS (0-2): New Orleans’ slow start certainly can’t be pinned on Drew Brees, who has passed for 647 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. The Saints need to give Brees more help on the ground, however, as they’ve totaled only 141 rushing yards in two games. The defense not only has struggled to stop both the run and the pass, but the Saints also have failed to force a single turnover thus far.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (2-0): Carolina’s defense has been outstanding across the board, ranking second against the pass and sixth versus the run while leading the league in total defense and scoring defense. Cam Newton and the offense have yet to break 300 total yards, though, and managed only 255 in a 9-3 win over Buffalo last week. The Panthers will be without one of Newton’s favorite targets for several weeks with tight end Greg Olsen suffering a broken foot last week.
1. Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart needs 104 yards to surpass DeAngelo Williams (6,846) as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.
2. Saints TE Coby Fleener has caught a touchdown pass in three consecutive games against the Panthers and two straight overall.
3. Carolina DE Mario Addison has recorded a sack in five straight home contests.
PREDICTION: Panthers 23, Saints 17