The Carolina Panthers will face the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wild Card Round on Sunday at 4:40 p.m. ET on FOX (live stream via FOX Sports Go or fuboTV). It will be the third meeting between the teams. The Saints have a 2-0 lead on the Panthers heading into the playoff matchup with 34-13 and 31-21 victories in the contests.
With the offense booming thanks to second-year wideout Michael Thomas and the running back duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, things have never looked brighter for the future of the Saints offense. Thomas bested 1,000 yards receiving on the season back in Week 15 and set a new franchise record for receptions in a single season with 104 in the season finale. The Panthers defense has some talent to limit the Saints offense but will have its hands full trying to stop both aspects of New Orleans’ attack.
Similarly, the Saints have some young talent on defense, including Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore. The rookie out of Ohio State was a first-round pick back in April, and despite some injuries keeping him out on occasion, he has made a clear case for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Quarterback Cam Newton will have to keep the Panthers run game going to create opportunities in the passing game against the Saints defense. Their best chance of racking up points will be on run plays and short screen passes that allows Newton’s receivers to make yards after the catch.
The Panthers still haven’t quite figured out how to best use some of their rookie talent like running back Christian McCaffrey. The rusher finished the regular season with 117 carries for 435 yards and two scores with the occasional breakout performance that showed glimpses of his potential. The same is true of Curtis Samuel, who despite finishing the year sidelined with an injury, failed to gain any sort of traction within the Panthers’ offense in his first season with the team.
The Saints have had the momentum heading into the second half of the season, but both the Panthers and Saints are coming off losses in Week 17.
Time, TV channel, and streaming info
- Time: 4:40 p.m. ET
- Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
- TV: FOX
- Streaming: FOX Sports Go | FuboTV
- Odds: The Saints opened as 2-point favorites.
Panthers vs. Saints news:
- With Wild Card Weekend the first step on the road to a spot in the Super Bowl, here’s the rest of the path to the championship matchup.
- WR Devin Funchess made the some of the most noteworthy plays for the Panthers this season.
The key word that runs through each of these plays is “strength.” On several occasions, Funchess caught passes short of a first down then powered through would-be tacklers to get beyond the sticks. On other plays Funchess went up and over defenders in tight coverage or used his strength to hold on to passes after taking a hard hit.
- Just because the Saints’ offense has a lot of weapons doesn’t mean it finds success on every down.
A season-long problem raised its ugly head on that drive, the Saints being unable to sustain drives in critical moments. As I’m watching the games this season, I cringe every third down. Even on third and short, to be honest. The Saints simply have not been able to consistently convert on third downs.
- There was a lot not to like in last week’s Panthers’ loss — especially from Newton — but the potential is definitely there.
The good news is that the previous losses don’t count any more. The bad news is that Alvin Kamara is still an unbelievably talented running back playing in an offense that understands how to maximize his skills. If Wilks knows how to contain Kamara then now is the time to prove it. If Shula actually knows how to use McCaffrey then now is the time to surprise the world.
Panthers vs. Saints predictions:
New Orleans makes it 3-0 against the Panthers this season with a big home win over Newton’s team. Carolina will keep things close through the first half but will be unable to keep up with the Saints offense late in the game.
Check out our Wild Card Weekend picks for even more expert opinions.