This weekend the Panthers will play in their home opener against the Saints after a miserable outing against the Bucs. The offense simply could not get anything going on the ground whatsoever last week, rushing a truly paltry number of yards.
The Saints are coming to Charlotte with an equally bad thrashing. The Redskins led by RGIII put a whooping on a Saints team that was in a bit of disarray. Their defense was woeful, but more shocking is the really off numbers by their passing game.
How will it look this weekend? We'll discuss this after the jump...
X-Factor: The Real Team Identities
A Panthers game that rushes for under 25 yards total? A Drew Brees led Saints with under 50% completion rating? Are you kidding me? If you had told me that either team was going to accomplish that feat last week, I would have laughed in your face. Yet that is exactly what ended up happening. This will not happen two weeks in a row.
The Panthers entire offensive game plan was stymied by really offensive Oline play, as we've talked about most of the week. We tried to run the option plays we had so much success with last year, and there were 3 defenders waiting for Williams and Newton. We tried to run the ball, and half the line was sprawling around on the ground. It wasn't just the rookie at fault here, either. Pro-bowlers Ryan Kalil and Jordan Gross were just awful last week.
For the Saints... Maybe this is what it's like when Peyton isn't calling the plays, as they have struggled when he missed a game due to a freak knee injury on the sidelines in the past. However, for Drew Brees to have a 70.9 Passer Rating, that is just completely uncanny. Here's a list of a few QBs who played better than Brees last week: Jake Locker, Carson Palmer, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Mark Sanchez, and Joe Flacco. Let that sink in a little bit (especially the Gabbert part).
Whichever team sorts out these uncharacteristic struggles will be in a prime position for success next week.
Aerial Battle: Panthers Passing Offense vs. Saints Secondary
Despite all the struggles last week, the passing game was pretty successful, outside of two really poor plays that resulted in INTs. Cam was just under a 70% completion rate for over 300 yards and a TD. While I expect more balance next week on offense, we can at least take heart that our passing game still has some teeth to it. The problem was consistency really. We were terrible at converting on 3rd downs largely due to the fact that many of our 3rd down situations were the unmanageable types.
On the other hand, the Saints secondary was absolutely shredded by Robert Griffin III, who posted a league leading 139.9 passer rating. With all the turmoil surrounding the Saints, especially with the coaching suspensions hitting the defense extremely hard, I don't know how they will be able to put everything together in just one week. Also, because I think that we will not be seeing the same awful line play two weeks in a row, I'm giving the Panthers the edge this week.
Trench Warfare: Panthers Rushing Offense vs. Saints Front Seven
Ouch. DeAngelo Williams finished with -1 yard rushing last week. That hurts. The good news though is that Wiliams is typically productive against the Saints. Also, after being completely embarrassed by the Tampa last week, I fully expect our Oline to have their heads in the game this week and come out with a little more effort.
On the Saints side, one of the topics of the week is in the return, at least, DE Will Smith following the overturning of the bounty-gate suspensions. That does give the Saints pass rush a leg up from last week, but with only a week to readjust to the team, I think it may take just a little while for the Saints defensive line to gel a little bit. Add in the fact that the Saints struggled to keep the Redskins out of the endzone on the ground (RB Alfred Morris had 2 TDs) and again, I think the Panthers will be able to reassert their run game this week.
Last week, I picked the Panthers to edge out the Bucs in both categories. This week, I did it again against the Saints, but for different reasons. Because we weren't sure what to expect from the Buccaneers, I gave the edge to an explosive Panthers team that we saw last season. This is a new week and the Saints are looking extremely vulnerable on defense. However, I would link a lot of their defensive vulnerabilities to the offensive woes of last week. If Drew Brees can rally his unit and put points on the board, this will be a tough match up for our team. If they remain anemic, then the pressure is on the defense to make the big plays and I'm just not sure they can do that.