The Carolina Panthers finished last weekend as the NFL’s only undefeated team. After dismantling the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo, the Panthers have a remaining schedule full of division rivals and the New York Giants. Those remaining games have gotten little attention, and the one that has gotten the least is the New Orleans Saints.
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been building lately, and the Atlanta Falcons have been receding lately, the Saints have been losing. Since their victory against the Colts, the Saints have fired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator. They have won a shootout with the Giants and lost another to the Titans. They have been stomped by the Washington Redskins and the Houston Texans.
Yet Roman Harper’s former team is still a threat, particularly if you believe that the Panthers cannot go undefeated for the course of the season. The smackdowns they suffered to J.J. Watt and Kirk Cousins happened on the road. The Saints are always a much better home team than road team. Call it the Dome Effect or whatever. In a down year they are still 3-2 at home with two close losses.
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The second reason the Saints are still dangerous is because Drew Brees is still behind the center. Brees’ production was reduced to about two hundred and twenty yards a game in their two recent road losses. At home Brees has failed to throw for more than three hundred yards a game only once. That was the Tampa Bay game where they knocked his shoulder yet he continued to play.
The final reason the Saints are dangerous is they are a divisional opponent. They have seen the Panthers time and time again. Remember that the Saints pushed the Panthers to the brink with backup quarterback Luke McCown in Charlotte. Now they get Brees at home.
The Panthers have built a good locker room and have enough veteran presence that overlooking the Saints should not be a possibility. Strong challenges from within the division should be a good test for the playoffs particularly against the Falcons and Buccaneers to end the season.
The Panthers play the Saints on Sunday.