Four Things to Ponder vs. Saints
Here are four things to watch out for heading in today's game between the Panthers (5-5) and Saints (8-2) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (1 p.m. ET / CBS, Saints -10):
Defensive focus, Part 1: Some folks in Atlanta might disagree, but New Orleans' Michael Thomas is arguably the best receiver in the NFC South -- if not the NFL. And he's rolling up numbers at a historic rate. If he keep up his current pace, Thomas will finish the season with 150 receptions, breaking the record of 143 set in 2002 by the Colts' Marvin Harrison. But while challenging the record is impressive enough, so is merely being in that rare air as only two players (Julio Jones and Antonio Brown) have even had 130-catch seasons since Harrison set the standard. Thomas finished five receptions shy of joining that list last season. Carolina is expected to place James Bradberry on Thomas, who leads the league in both targets (114) and catch rate (82.5 percent).
Defensive focus, Part 2: A high-ankle sprain and a tender knee have kept Alvin Kamara's numbers down so far this season, what with him scoring only one rushing touchdown thus far this season after finding the end zone 14 times last year. But that could be about to change as he had a career-high 14 first-half touches during last week's 34-17 win at Tampa Bay. He finished with 75 yards rushing on 13 carries while also catching 10 passes for 47 yards.
Remember when, Part 1: It seems like a lifetime ago when Kyle Allen took over for the injured Cam Newton, reeled off four straight interception-free victories and had Carolina fans talking about the playoffs. But the Panthers are 1-3 since then, a string that has seen Allen throw nine interceptions -- including four during last week's 29-3 loss to Atlanta. But he's also been sacked 18 times and under constant pressure. Now he faces a New Orleans defense that is tied for 12th in the NFL with 27 sacks.
Remember when, Part 2: The Panthers are third in the league with 12 interceptions to go with seven fumble recoveries. However, the last time Carolina won was also the last time it forced a turnover on defense, that being during a 30-20 win over Tennessee on November 3. Now they face a team in the Saints who've only committed a league-low six turnovers (three interceptions, three fumbles). That equals the number of turnovers that Carolina has committed over the past three games.