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NFC Wild Card Preview: New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers

The New Orleans Saints face off against the Carolina Panthers in the second NFC Wild Card game. The game is scheduled for 4:40 pm EST on FOX.

NFC Wild Card Preview: New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers

The Offenses

Perhaps the biggest story of the 2017 season was the Saints’ comeback after a dreadful 0-2 start. Ever since that two game skid, New Orleans flipped the proverbial switch, leading them to the NFC South Division Title.

It was another year, another 4,000 yard season for quarterback Drew Brees. This time around, Brees threw for 4,334 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The touchdowns were down this year as compared in the past, but that is for one specific reason. However, he throws to one of the top receivers in the game in Michael Thomas, who has caught the third-most receptions in the league (104). Add 1,245 yards and five touchdowns to that, and you have Brees’ primary target.

The Saints have perhaps the most dynamic running back duo in the league in Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. Ingram is the primary rushing back, who took 230 carries for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns this year. Then there is Kamara, who has made significant impact in the running and receiving game. The rookie has 728 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 120 carries, as well as 81 receptions for 826 yards and five touchdowns.

Now we move onto the Panthers, who’s passing game has struggled a bit this season. Quarterback Cam Newton has thrown for 3,302 yards, 22 touchdowns and ten interceptions. A lot can be attributed to an unproven wide receiver corps consisting of Brenton Bersin, Russell Shepard, Kaelin Clay, and Mose Frazier. However, there is still Devin Funchess, who has 63 catches for 840 yards and eight touchdowns.

Carolina makes up for it in their running game, as they have the fourth-best rushing offense in the league. Newton rushed for 754 yards and six touchdowns on 129 carries, who is deadly on his feet. Then there are the running backs, consisting of Jonathan Stewart and rookie Christian McCaffrey. Stewart rushed for 680 yards and six touchdowns on 198 carries, while McCaffrey has 435 yards and two touchdowns on 117 carries. However, McCaffrey makes up for it in the receiving game, as he has a team-high 80 receptions for 651 yards and five touchdowns.

The Defenses

New Orleans has been known for their rather lackluster defenses in recent years. However, that has changed drastically, as they have shown they are able to hold off opposing offenses. In turn, that helps ease the pressure of their offense. The Saints have the third-most interceptions in the league (20), thanks in part to rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who has a team-leading five picks. The Saints are tied for the seventh-most sacks in the league with 42, where 13 of those came from defensive end Cameron Jordan.

The Panthers defense is not to be toyed around with, though. Their rush defense has allowed the third-least amount of rushing yards per game (88.1). Not only that, but they have the third-most sacks in the league (50), where Julius Peppers and Mario Addison have 11 each. We cannot forget about the ever-dangerous duo of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis at the linebacker position.

Both pass defenses are closely matched, as New Orleans is ranked 15th (224.8 yards/game), while Carolina is ranked 18th (229.1 yards/game).

This game should be a hard-hitting affair, as the 11-5 division rivals look to gain bragging rights for this season. Can the Saints make it 3-0 this season against their division foe? Or will the Panthers take home the most important victory of the season between the two on Sunday?

Scott Rogust

Scott Rogust

Scott is the Senior Editor of DoubleGSports.com as well as the New York Giants Lead Writer.
Scott Rogust

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