The Panthers and the Saints are squaring up for their traditional end of year dance. Carolina has nothing but pride on the line and New Orleans is eyeing playoff math to see where they fall for homefield advantage. Traditional.
This week, I spoke with Chris Dunnells of Canal Street Chronicles. We covered Drew Brees’ hopeful retirement, Alvin Kamara (back when he was relevant), and the fact that Panthers fans might miss the ghost of Byron Bell on Sunday. Read on, if that doesn’t sound too painfully familiar.
Alvin Kamara happened to a lot of Fantasy leagues last week and, less importantly, to the Minnesota Vikings. Is there anything the Panthers can do to have him not happen to them? I know the Saints have already used the ‘have him miss most of the season due to unrelated injuries’ defense against Christian McCaffrey and am hoping for a more original effort from our team. For example, is Kamara angry that Taysom Hill vultured the touchdown record from him last week and threatening to go on strike?
Ha! By all accounts, Kamara was perfectly fine with Taysom Hill getting that touchdown late against the Vikings, and Kamara was still able to get his sixth later in the game, so it all worked out.
This is purely speculation on my part, but I don’t see something similar to last week happening again this week. Last week, the Saints got ahead but kept their foot on the gas pedal out of an abundance of caution against a team that has notoriously bitten them in the rear when the Saints have thought the game was won. If the Saints can build a lead in Week 17, I’d expect the Saints to pull a significant amount of their starters late in the game for fear of injury. That being said, back-to-back six touchdown performances seem highly unlikely : )
But if you’re asking from a football perspective, your best shot is to stuff the box and put your speediest linebacker in cover on Kamara, essentially as a “spy” all game. Think of it like playing Lamar Jackson. Drew Brees is never going to be a threat to run, so instead of spying the quarterback, have your fastest lateral linebacker - and ideally a sure-tackler - stay focused on Kamara at all times.
*Editor’s note: This was asked, and answered, prior to Kamara’s positive COVID-19 test this week. So, there’s that.
Drew Brees is back from multiple broken ribs. How close to full strength is he/is he expected to be?
He’s as close to full strength as a 41-year-old quarterback two months removed from 11 broken ribs can be, I suppose. He will also get healthier as time progresses and he avoids big hits, but his throwing mechanics looked much better last week than they did two weeks ago against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Saints are still playing for homefield advantage and a playoff bye, I’ve heard rumors the Panthers are playing for pride. What are the odds the Saints are actually looking ahead at the playoffs and show up flat on Sunday?
Speaking of the Eagles, the Saints potentially looked past the Eagles starting a rookie QB in Jalen Hurts, making his first career start, and took an upset loss. That put the Saints in the position they’re in now, having to rely on help from other teams to secure a first round bye. I would hope Sean Payton wouldn’t let that happen again. I think they’ll be ready to play this week.
Guard Michael Schofield will be the fifth player to line up at left tackle for the Panthers come Sunday and we are tremendously not excited for what happens after that. Who will he be attempting to protect Teddy Bridgewater from and how bad is it going to get?
Unsung star Trey Hendrickson was tied for the league lead in sacks when he went down with injury two weeks ago, so we’ll see if he’s able to play this week or if the Saints keep him out anyway out of an abundance of caution. In any event, I’d expect former first round pick Marcus Davenport to be the player facing Schofield most of the game, and Davenport is continuing to grow as a pass-rusher and edge-container, so Schofield might have a long afternoon ahead of him.
If the Panthers lay down and let the Saints lock in the cushiest playoff spot they can earn then will Brees go ahead and retire already after this season? I’m asking for a friend, who is the NFC South.
I’ve said this for the past three years, and I believe it’s been true each year: If the Saints can win a Super Bowl, I think Drew hangs it up. Considering everything that’s happened the past few years, his cushy CBS gig waiting for him, and the rib injury we spoke about earlier, I think this year is Drew’s last regardless. Word on the street was that Drew was legitimately contemplating hanging it up this past offseason (with the Saints to be the rumored ideal destination for one “Tom Brady”), so no matter what happens this postseason, this might be the last time Carolina Panthers fans see their team suit up against the future Hall of Famer.