With Stewart Back, Carolina Panthers Could Make a Run at an Upset Against Visiting Saints
The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints both enter their NFC South showdown Sunday in Charlotte in search of their first wins of the season after suffering upset losses in Week One of the NFL season. The Saints, who have won four straight meetings against Carolina, have been installed as 2.5-point favorites according to the latest NFL odds.
Carolina and New Orleans both have to be put near the top of the list of league disappointments following the season’s opening week. The Saints were upended by the Washington Redskins 40-32 despite being 8 1/2-point home favorites, while the Panthers dropped a 16-10 decision on the road to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as 2 1/2-point favorites.
For Carolina to have any chance against the Saints this week it will need to get its running game untracked. The Panthers could muster just 10 yards on 13 carries against the Bucs’, who a season ago were among the worst defenses in the league. Carolina should receive a boost in that area as running back Jonathan Stewart is expected to play after missing the opener with an ankle injury. However, of perhaps even more concern for the Panthers’ was the Week One performance of its offensive line. A strength of the team a year ago, Carolina’s front-five was badly outplayed by the Bucs’ last Sunda. Changes could be in the offing this week, most notably at guard where rookie Amini Silatolu may be replaced after two critical penalties and being partially responsible for giving up two sacks.
Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera this week said there is “cause for optimism” with the offense and indicated there could be some personnel changes.
“The mistakes on the offensive side are all correctable,” Rivera told the Associated Press. “It wasn’t a glaring thing as far as schematically. It was a player here or a player there, something they did wrong. We’ll get better it.”
Another reason for the Panthers’ to be optimistic against New Orleans is its dynamic quarterback, Cam Newton. The second-year pro and former Heisman Trophy winner has a similar skill-set to that of last year’s Heisman winner, the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III, who torched the Saints defense both through the air and with his legs in Week One. A similar performance out of Newton, along with improved play along the offensive line, could be enough for the Panthers to threaten the 2 1/2-point spread.