The final scores of last weeks Saints and Panthers games were NOT an indication of how lopsided each contest really was. What I’m saying to you is that both scores were much closer than the games actually were. The Saints were rarely in their game with the Skins, and likewise for the Panthers and Bucs.
Now, each team faces a possible 0-2 start to the season. That is not a good sign as far as playoffs are concerned, as only 13 percent of teams that have gone 0-2 before have gone on to make the NFL playoffs.
1. Which team’s offense will break out? Last week was supposed to be a great homecoming party for the Saints in the Dome, and the Cats were expected to walk all over the Bucs. Neither of those came to fruition as Tampa and Washington made things look easy in slowing down two of the most dangerous QBs in the game today. The Saints and Cats must run the ball better. I’m not telling you that you have to run the ball to win. But what I am telling you is you have to rush the ball more than 13 times (New Orleans) and 10 times (Carolina) to win games. Both teams combined for 23 carries for a pitiful 42 yards last week. That’s weak, people. The team that has the most balance on offense will more than likely win.
2. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers! New Orleans was -3 in the turnover department last week, while Carolina was just one better, finishing -2 against Tampa. Turnovers thwart drives, kill momentum and give the other team more time of possession. When the Saints don’t turn the ball over, they never lose! So, simply put, don’t turn the ball over.
3. Special teams – Last week Darren Sproles and Carolina’s Joe Adams had their moments, but they both did not play to their capability. Sproles is a proven return man; Adams is also special and has the makings of being one of the league’s best return men. A big return on kickoff or punt return could be a difference-maker here. The question is, which of these two is going to have that big return?
4. Time of possession is key! Last week both the Panthers and Saints were dominated in time of possession. Carolina had the ball for just 22:33 and the Saints held the ball for just 20:50. New Orleans does have a much faster-paced offense, as even with their lower-than-average TOP, the Saints still got off 64 offensive plays. Carolina is not fast-paced, and they were only able to run 43 offensive plays, compared to 60 plays that Tampa ran. The Panthers were doomed from the start last week as Tampa had the ball for nearly 19 minutes in the first half of the game.
5. Tackle better, please. Tackling was not as bad last week as it has been, but it still has a ways to go. How come teams like Baltimore, Pittsburgh and San Francisco can consistently make tackles and the Saints can’t? If the Saints are ever going to become a defense that is thought of as anything other than just trying to slow the other team, or as a defense that only needs to hold their opponent under 30 points, then they need to tackle better. Guys, you are pros. Can you tackle like it?
6. Just win baby! If the stats show that only 13 percent of teams that start 0-2 make the post-season, doesn’t that make this a must-win? The Saints need to win this game badly. A loss here would put the Saints staring at a more than possible 1-3 start through their first four games of the season. If that were to happen, it would be the second-worst start to a season in the Sean Payton era, second only to the 2007 season when the team began 0-4 and missed the playoffs.
Big Chief’s Final Analysis – New Orleans has to win this game. You can’t rely on what has been done in the past. Yes, this team has winning streaks of 13 games and 9 games in two of the last three seasons…but that was then and this is now. The Saints defense has to play better, and they can expect a healthy dose of Cam and the Carolina stable of running backs. I don’t think this game is going to be easy, but I think the Saints will pull it out in a close one. Lay the 2 ½ points and go with the Black and Gold.
New Orleans Saints (0-1) @ Carolina Panthers (0-1)
Sunday September 16 Noon Kickoff on WWL Saints Radio
Last week’s results: Washington beat New Orleans 40-32 / Tampa Bay beat Carolina 16-10