First and foremost, the thing to realize is that the team that showed up in Saints uniforms against the Seahawks last week is not the team that will show up in the Dome Sunday night. Nobody in New Orleans believes that and I don’t think the Panthers believe that either.
Both teams are at the top of the NFL in time of possession, the difference is that the Saints control the time of possession with their offense. While the Panthers success in time of possession comes from their defense keeps opposing offenses off of the field, and getting the ball back to their offense. Expect the Saints offense to come out with block, not a chip, on their shoulders and go right at the Panthers defense with a strong running game and their usual strong passing attack and build a lead that the Panthers are not able to overcome.
Another key factor that will result in a lot of surprised people is how well the Saints defense will play against Carolina’s primary strength, their running game. The run defense of the Saints has improved weekly, and it will be the case this week since it is Carolina’s primary weapon. The second key for the defense will be keeping Cam Newton in the pocket.
Last but not least is the home field advantage the Dome provides. Theirs a reason the Saints are 6-0 at home this year, the advantage of playing in front of the WhoDats is well documented.
The key for Carolina will be if the Saints defense learned anything at all about keeping a QB that can run the ball effectively in the pocket. Containment will be a word that will come up early and often during the game, if the Saints can’t contain Newton, then the Panthers offense has a reasonable chance of producing enough points to get a win.
The key for Carolina’s defense isn’t keeping the Saints offense from scoring but holding the Saints offense to as many three and outs as possible, if they can do that they can keep the ball in the hands of their offense and that’s the safest way to play the Saints.
As it is with most teams that are on a winning streak, the ball has bounced the Panthers way a lot this season. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just the mark of a team on a streak. I believe in this game however, the Saints will come out with an intensity and look to build a lead early. Carolina has had several come back wins during their 8 game winning streak but I don’t believe they can come back against the Saints in the Dome. I’m going with the Saints in a NFC South Screamer 27 – 21