The New Orleans Saints can all but mathematically wrap up the NFC South title Sunday when they host the Carolina Panthers in a division showdown featuring a pair of potential NFL MVP candidates.
How to Watch:
When: Sunday, Nov. 24
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Live Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
The Saints (8-2), who are currently in a four-way fight with San Francisco, Green Bay and Seattle for the top two seeds in the NFC, are 2 ½ games better than the second-place Panthers (5-5).
That has been in part due to wide receiver Michael Thomas, who helped stabilize the offense earlier in the season when quarterback Drew Brees was sidelined with a thumb injury. Thomas has provided an early dividend on his 5-year, $100 million extension in July by tormenting opposing secondaries.
The fourth-year receiver leads the NFL by a wide margin in both receptions (94) and yards (1,141), and he enters this game 72 yards shy of reaching 5,000 for his career in just his 58th game. He would be the third-fastest player in NFL history to the milestone, trailing only Odell Beckham Jr. (54) and Julio Jones (56).
No wide receiver has ever won the NFL MVP award, which makes Thomas’ chase of the NFL single-season records of 143 receptions (Marvin Harrison in 2002) and 1,964 yards (Calvin Johnson in 2012) all the more intriguing. Thomas is also six receptions shy of his third straight season with at least 100 catches.
He finished with eight grabs for 114 yards and a touchdown in New Orleans’ 34-17 win at Tampa Bay last Sunday, hooking up with Drew Brees on a 16-yard scoring pass in the first quarter. The Saints scored the first 20 points of the game and never looked back, intercepting Jameis Winston four times to keep the Bucs at arm’s length.
Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has been a dual threat this season. The third-year pro leads the NFL with 1,576 yards from scrimmage, but still needs to average 156.7 yards over his final six games to break Chris Johnson’s record of 2,509 established in 2009 with Tennessee.
McCaffrey also leads the league with 1,059 rushing yards, but was limited to 70 in last Sunday’s surprising 29-3 loss to Atlanta. He did have 11 receptions for a career-best 121 yards, but quarterback Kyle Allen’s career-worst four interceptions proved too costly to overcome. After not throwing a pick in leading Carolina to wins in his first four starts after replacing the injured Cam Newton, Allen has thrown nine in his last four as the Panthers have gone 1-3 in that stretch.
Thomas has yet to record a 100-yard receiving game in six career matchups vs. Panthers, while McCaffrey has been held to 53 or fewer rushing yards in all four of his meetings with the Saints.