The Carolina Panthers (5-10) will host their last game of the season this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints (11-4). Unlike the Panthers, the Saints are heading to the playoffs yet again. New Orleans actually has an outside chance of getting the No. 1 seed in the NFC if they can beat Carolina and the Packers (12-3) lose to the Bears (8-7). With postseason home-field advantage on the line, the Saints are unlikely to rest their starters. This means that the Panthers will have to bring their A-game against the division foe if they want to end the season with a victory. Most fans would probably be fine with a loss to better the team's draft position. However, Carolina coaches and players have made it very clear that they are playing to win the last game of their 2020 season.
Here are our three keys to the game for the Panthers:
Stack the box against Kamara
Saints' running back Alvin Kamara had 155 rushing yards and six touchdowns last week against the Vikings. You read that right. Six rushing touchdowns! It's safe to say that if the Panthers allow even half of the touchdowns that the Vikings allowed last week, then they stand no chance in this game. Carolina does not have the firepower to keep up with the Saints. Especially considering that they have a hole to fill at running back with both Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis expected to be out for the Week 17 matchup. It's basically impossible to stop Kamara all you can do is hope to slow him down. The good news is that the Saints passing attack is not as polished as it has been in previous seasons. Carolina's best bet is to put seven or eight defenders around the line of scrimmage and hope that Drew Brees and the passing game are unable to take advantage of the depleted secondary.
Let the WRs do their thing
As mentioned above, the Panthers will likely be without McCaffrey and Davis. Carolina figures to be playing from behind in this game so they were going to have to rely on the wide receivers regardless. DJ Moore and Robby Anderson have already passed the 1,000-yard mark this season. Curtis Samuel needs just 70 yards to top 1,000 total yards for the year himself. The Panthers' wideouts have been one of the teams' few bright spots this year. If they are going to have a chance in this game, then the pass-catchers will need to continue to have success.
Pressure Drew Brees
The Panthers' defensive line has come alive during the second half of this season. Besides the wide receiver position, the D-line might be the best unit that Carolina has. I expect them to get to Drew Brees a few times in this game and if they do they just might be able to force a turnover or two. Brees threw two interceptions last week which is uncharacteristic for him. The talent matchup swings heavily in the Saints' favor, so the Panthers need everything to go their way to come away with the victory. This includes the turnover battle.
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