Tomorrow should be a time for slaughter. Today the Saints have let out that they shall err on the side of caution this week and rest Brees, netting him the NFL record for pass percentage completion. 70.6 over Bengal's great Ken Anderson's 70.55 set in 1982.
As a Panthers fan, I would like to sincerely thank the Saints for allowing us the opportunity to crush your souls underfoot this week. Drew Brees is the best weapon on the team, and he's going to be sitting on the bench the entire game. Do you really think that Mark Brunell, a 39 year old guy who hasn't started a game in 3 years, will be able to save them? Not likely. People worry about the rust on Brees going into the playoffs, but what about just this game coming up? Mark Brunell's has so much rust on him he probably moves like a statue by now.
The Panthers are destined to win this game and go 8-8. The Saints will be without key starters on their offense in WR Lance Moore, RB Pierre Thomas, and probably TE Jeremy Shockey along with many other players on defense as they struggle to get healthy for the playoffs. The Saints will have to depend heavily on Heisman winner Reggie Bush to carry the load, but he's already shown that he has trouble being the main back. The Panthers run defense will be tested early and often, and as long as they can shut him down and get their offense firing early, they should have no problems overrunning the cautious Saints and winning by double digits.
Panthers Run Defense vs Reggie Bush
The Saints have already been down the road of trying to make Reggie Bush their main back, and it hasn't been pretty. The last 3 years he's averaged under 4 yards per carry and never lived up to the hype he had coming out of USC. As long as the Panthers play 7-8 people in the box and keep him from reaching the edge, they should have no trouble shutting him down between the tackles, and therefore stop their running game.
Panthers Pass Defense vs Mark Brunell
Exit stage left Drew Brees, enter stage right Mark Brunell. He's a 39 year old veteran well past his prime. While other older QB's like Brett Favre and Kurt Warner have come out of the rocking chair and been pretty successful, I don't expect that kind of play from Mark Brunell this week. He's 3 years removed from starting an NFL game, and he's been on and off during the entire preseason. Threw 2 good games against the Bengals and Texans, and threw a couple of stinkers against the Raiders and Miami.
Julius Peppers needs to come into this game ready to play. He needs to show the NFL why he's so good at his craft. Mark Brunell needs to be forced into making mistakes, and Julius Peppers is just what the doctor ordered. Whether or not he shows up next year in a Panthers uniform, I expect him to show up this game and show Mark Brunell the fine dining that the turf has to offer.
Panthers O-Line vs Saints D-Line
Very quietly, Saint's DE Will Smith has put up a Pro-Bowl worthy season, 13 sacks and constant pressure at his position. They'll surely move him around to both DE positions to frighten our O-Line, and it'll be up to backups Geoff Swartz and Travelle Wharton to stop them.
It will be a great help to us in this matchup to call a balanced game. As long as we don't revert to a pure passing game like we've done in the past, then this star DE will have other things to worry about other than purely rushing the passer. If we call a good game, and Matt can continue to escape the pocket when he's under threat, we'll do pretty well in this upcoming game.
Moose and Moore vs Saint's CB's
With Steve Smith out because of injury, the best chance the Panthers have of making the pass game work is reviving the Moore to Moore connection we had going during the pre-season. Dwayne Jarrett has been a total bust, so this is a fine time to evaluate Moore and find how if he has #2 or #3 talent for the future. He's only an inch higher than Steve Smith, and his 4.47, 40 time and 28 inch jump vertical is nothing to boast about, but he's shown great chemistry with Moore in the past so we'll get to see where he fits for next year.
Moose on the other hand, he's going to have to show us what he was. Moose is expected to be the #1 option with Smith hitting the bench. Does he still have the tools to gain separation and get open? With the Saints expected to load the box, he'll have to be successful in order for us to truly begin our romp of the Saints.
Panthers Special Teams vs Reggie Bush
Somehow, I feel like our special teams are going to give us one last reason to fire Danny Crossman during the off-season. Throughout the years, he's only given us mediocre unit after mediocre. Constant dropped punts, bad blocking along the line, and long return allowed against players we've never heard about before. When the Panthers go up against Reggie Bush on Sunday, somehow deep in my gut I expect some shenanigans. It may only be one play, but I expect shenanigans.
I hope that we can finish this game strong with a dominant effort, but I'll bet you anything that we'll give up a big return for a touchdown or something weird like that. It may only delay the inevitable Panthers victory, but it will be annoying none-the-less.
I believe that the Panthers will win this game. I don't believe it'll be close. Our team has been playing lights out for the last couple of weeks. There is no way that the Panthers will allow themselves to be beaten by a bunch of backups. The Panthers will close out this season in a big way, 45-17. If the passing game works, the running game will go over 100 yards. If the passing game doesn't work, Jeff Davidson might screw up another game.