Carolina Panthers

Panthers vs. Saints Preview

Happy New Year football fans! Buckle up for another NFC South showdown.

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Game Overview

With two more games to go in this 2021 NFL season, the Carolina Panthers are saddled with a 5-10 record, sitting in last place of their division. Already eliminated from postseason contention, all there is to play for now is pride.

This week’s opponents are the New Orleans Saints, who the Panthers previously beat 26-7 in Week 2, but the team that started the season 3-0 is long gone. The team on the field in weeks prior hardly even resembles the team that had such a promising start to the season. During a presser on Monday, head coach Matt Rhule announced that a “significant” number of players tested positive for COVID-19. According to Panthers injury/reserve reports, we know now that six players were added on Tuesday: Brian Burns, Shaq Thompson, Marquis Haynes, Phil Hoskins, Daviyon Nixon, & Matt Paradis. On Wednesday (12/29), Hasson Reddick was added, as well. This brings the total number of players on the COVID-19/reserve list to 14. The biggest losses on this list are defensive starters Brian Burns, Shaq Thompson, & Hasson Reddick. Burns was selected to his first Pro Bowl this season.

Panther’s Keys to the Game

  • Sam Darnold has been activated off the IR and is expected to start, barring any unforeseen holdups. Depending on which version of the QB shows up, this could be an advantage for Carolina. The Panthers are stuck between a rock and a hard place with their QB situation, but for now, Darnold gets the nod. He is expected to live up to the expectations he set in the first three weeks of the season.
  • Much like last week’s key, the Panthers will have to find a way to fill the gap left by players on the COVID-19 reserve list. If they can find a way to replicate some production, they may stand a fighting chance. This is an opportunity for young players who have not earned much playing time to put some reps on tape.
  • Saints QB/TE/WR hybrid Taysom Hill has been activated from the COVID-19 list. Expect him to start in place of rookie Ian Book, who had a rough first start last week. Hill has the ability to make plays through the air and on the ground, especially in the red zone. Keeping him contained will be the biggest factor this week. Defensively, expect Yetur Gross-Matos to apply pressure and disrupt Hill’s progressions.

Game Predictions

ESPN Matchup Predictor give the Panthers a 33% to win. That feels about right, as they had the Saints number earlier this season when both teams were playing much better football. While the Saints have a more talented roster and a better coaching staff, anything can happen on any given Sunday. If you’re placing bets on this game (the line is Saints -6.5), safe money is the Saints to win, but I expect the Panthers to cover.

Final Score: Saints 24-Panthers 20.

Thank you for reading.

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  1. Pingback: The Patriots Look To Bounce Back Against The Jaguars - Championship Sports Media

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