by Steve Geller, email@example.com,posted Dec 7 2013 6:26PM
It's the final countdown! We're in the 4th quarter of the NFL season as just 4 games remain. The 9-3 Saints have a huge NFC South contest this Sunday when they host the 9-3 Panthers.
The Panthers are riding an 8 game win streak and have their sights set on snatching the top spot in the division away from the Black and Gold.
The Panthers allows just 13 points per contest, which ranks #1 in the NFL. They are also 2nd in sacks and 2nd in interceptions.
I do expect the Saints to bounce back after getting smoked by Seattle on Monday night, but it ‘aint gonna be easy.
PREDICTION: Saints 23 - Panthers 20
Here are the guys I'll be looking for to make a big play or two and be a difference makers in this one:
RB Darren Sproles
What happened to Sproles over the last 2 weeks? The Niners and Seahawks were able to contain this versatile, hard to tackle back; and the offense really suffered. To me he is just as important to get involved in the game as is Jimmy Graham.
Hopefully the knee injury that kept him out of the week 12 matchup against Atlanta still isn't a lingering issue. Brees and Sproles could do some damage against this aggressive Panthers defensive front.
WR Kenny Stills
The rookie was on my list last week and remains on it for this matchup. I would dial up the deep homerun ball to Stills on the very first play of the game to remind Carolina whose house they are in and that the number one spot in the division isn't for the taking.
Stills leads the NFL in yards per catch, with 20.6 a reception, and can get the best of the Panthers DBs. The only question: Will Brees have enough time to deliver the ball?
S Kenny Vaccaro
If someone is going to lay a remember me hit on Cam Netwon, it's this guy. Vaccaro forced Marshawn Lynch to fumble the ball on Monday night, but unfortunately the Saints could not recover. It will take a force as fearsome as his to drive home the point against Newton.
When the big mobile QB takes off and scrambles, Vaccaro needs to finish the play with a hard tackle to make him think twice about doing it again.
QB Cam Netwon
You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout; I'm telling you why: Super Cam is coming to town. Yeah, he's a bit arrogant, can be a pouty crybaby at times, but when he's locked in; this kid is a stud. The latter has been the case more often than not this year.
What I've really been impressed with is the fact that he really doesn't have great weapons around him, but he is still getting the job done. If the Saints can knock him off his game, the rest of the team will crumble.
DE Charles Johnson
Well, well, well, look who's coming back this week. Johnson missed the last 2 games with a strained right knee but has taken part in practice this week, and baring a setback, he will be on the field for this game.
Not good news for the Saints O-line, and that means even worse news for Drew Brees. The league's top unit gets its best player back. Johnson has 8.5 sacks on the year and will be anxious to add to that total on the Sunday night stage.
LB Luke Kuechly
This sophomore is another young Panthers superstar and will be a thorn in the Saints side for years and years to come. All you need to know about this Cat is that he is basically a young Brian Urlacher.
Kuechly is a tackling machine and leads the team with 102. The 2nd year LB out of Boston College also has 3 INTs this season to go along with 6 passes defended. He just seems to be everywhere on the field. Keuchly is the guy you hate to play against, but you wish he was on your team.
I have been fearing this game since week 6. The Saints can win it but it will take the best from our o-line, coaches, and LOUD fans. We are going to need some luck mixed in there too. This team is good (maybe not great)and we ALL have to believe to achieve. Once we get to the playoffs it's a brand new season. This game against Carolina could be our defining moment of the season.
We need to run the " No Huddle Offense " for most of the game. This should eliminate them on trying to replace defenders after each play and would eliminate the penalties for delay of game on our side. We gotta win this game.