Another week, another divisional game for the Saints. This time they will take on the Carolina Panthers for the first time this season. They come in having lost three of their last four games after the bye week. The Saints will be looking to extend their division lead and keep track with the 49ers and Packers, who play each other Sunday night. As mentioned by fellow analyst Ross Jackson, this will the 50th game between the two franchises.
They became division rivals when the Panthers joined the NFL in 1995. The series has been pretty even to say the least. The Saints have the longest win streak of five games from 2000 to 2002. The Panthers have had a couple of four game streaks with the latest being from 2005 to 2007. Needless to say, it will be another hard fought game this Sunday with a lot on the line for both squads.
The more intriguing aspect of this rivalry is the amount of Saints players who played for the Panthers over the years. Sam Mills was an integral part of the Dome Patrol who finished his career and became a coach with the Panthers. He was so loved in Carolina that they built a statue in his honor when he passed away in 2005 and the inspiration for their motto “Keep Pounding.”
Jake Delhomme was a backup for the Saints for a few years and a Louisiana native. He signed with the Panthers in 2003 and brought them to their first Super Bowl appearance the same year. He went on to have a successful career there before retiring in 2011. Roman Harper is very well known in the Who Dat Nation, helping the team win a Super Bowl in 2009. He spent two years in Carolina and helped them reach a Super Bowl in 2015 and then retired as a Saint the following season.
As mentioned before, this game has a lot on the line for both teams. The Saints are coming off a bounce back win against the Buccaneers. The Panthers took a big hit by getting demolished by the Falcons. The biggest key for the Saints to win this game is shutting down Christian McCaffrey. He already has over 1,000 yards rushing and is also a weapon in the pass game. The Saints defense has been stout against the run all season and will look to continue those ways.
Another key factor will be continuing the balance on offense. The Panthers defense is in the bottom third of the league against the run and needs to be exploited early. The biggest match up will be Drew Brees vs Luke Kuechly. Both players are very intelligent which makes this a complete chess match. Kuechly has mentioned that Brees and Alvin Kamara are in his top five toughest players to play against. This game should be nothing short of spectacular.