Publish date:

Inside the Numbers: Panthers vs Saints Game Preview

Breaking down the Panthers' week two matchup with the Saints.

The Panthers and Saints are set to clash this Sunday in an early season divisional matchup. Both team came away victorious in week one as the Panthers gutted out a 19-14 win over the Jets and the Saints demolished the Packers, 38-3.

It's Thursday which means it's time to dive into the numbers and preview this week's game. Let's get to it. 

When the Panthers have the ball:

Panthers OffenseStatsSaints Defense

381.0 (T-18th)

Yards Per Game/Allowed

229.0 (1st)

111.0 (18th)

Rushing Yards Per Game/Allowed

43.0 (1st)

4.11 (17th)

Rushing Yards Per Attempt/Allowed

2.87 (1st)

270.0 (14th)

Passing Yards Per Game/Allowed

186.0 (1st)

1 (T-3rd)

Sacks Allowed/Sacks

2 (T-13th)

28.6 (T-25th)

Third Down Efficiency

10.0 (1st)

19 (21st)

Points Per Game/Allowed

3 (1st)

Carolina did a good job moving the football last week but failed to put the ball in the end zone during two of their trips in the red zone. One was a failed conversion on 4th down that got stuffed behind the line of scrimmage while the other was a fumble by Sam Darnold on 4th & 1 as he went to wide and brushed fullback Giovanni Ricci's elbow. The red zone was an issue for the Panthers a year ago and things are already off to a slow start again there in 2021. However, Matt Rhule says it's a lack of execution more than anything. 

"We just have to execute better. It's not like these big, macro things. It's always an inch here, a step there. I personally don't think it's schematic. I think Joe [Brady] had some good things dialed up. We just have to throw and catch a little bit better. We have to be a little bit tighter on the wide zone."

For Carolina to pull the upset of the Saints this Sunday, efficiency in the red zone is going to be paramount. That said, the Panthers have to get to the red zone first. Last week against the Packers, New Orleans allowed just three points and were only on the field for roughly 17-18 plays in the first half. The Saints have a dominant, physical, active defensive front that could give Carolina a ton of issues. Cameron Erving and Pat Elflein had some struggles in week one which led to Sam Darnold getting hit eight times. 

When you look at the stat sheet last week, Robby Anderson had just one reception. It's not that Darnold wasn't trying to go his way, he just couldn't. Many of his routes were a little deeper down the field and since Darnold was under so much duress, he didn't have much time to look his way. 

The Saints are solid in all three levels but more importantly, they have depth in all three levels. Even with CB Marshon Lattimore expected to miss this week's game, the Saints will insert Bradley Roby into the lineup who was just recently acquired via trade from the Houston Texans.

For the Panthers to have a chance to win this game, they're going to have to get the ball out quick and methodically work their way down the field. Aside from Taylor Moton and maybe Matt Paradis, there is a lack of consistency on the offensive line and you don't want to take shot after shot down the field against the secondary while under pressure. 

When the Saints have the ball:

Saints OffenseStatsPanthers Defense

322.0 (T-23rd)

Yards Per Game/Allowed

252.0 (T-3rd)

171.0 (3rd)

Rushing Yards Per Game/Allowed

45.0 (2nd)

4.38 (13th)

Rushing Yards Per Attempt/Allowed

2.65 (1st)

151.0 (30th)

Passing Yards Per Game/Allowed

207.0 (9th)

0 (T-1st)

Sacks Allowed/Sacks

6 (T-1st)

50.0 (T-8th)

Third Down Efficiency

30.8 (10th)

28 (T-2nd)

Points Per Game/Allowed

14 (T-5th)

The Saints won't have WR Michael Thomas but that won't hold this offensive unit from being dynamic. Alvin Kamara is a carbon copy of Christian McCaffrey and has a very similar impact on the game. Matt Rhule said on Wednesday that thing that makes Kamara so good is that he's so tough to bring down to the ground.

"He has elite, Hall of Fame contact balance. He's unbelievably hard to tackle. Great burst, great speed, great vision. But I think the thing that separates him the most is his balance."

In the season opener against Green Bay, Kamara rushed the ball 20 times for 83 yards but only had three receptions for eight yards. Typically, the Saints get him more involved in the passing game and I would expect that to be the case this Sunday.

Quarterback Jameis Winston was very sharp despite only tossing for 148 yards. I've got to be honest, he had a very wonky stat line with five touchdown passes on 20 passing attempts while not even eclipsing 150 yards through the air. Nonetheless, he got the job done and did a great job of taking what the defense gave him. This is a much different Winston from the one we saw in Bruce Arians' offense where he had that gunslinger mentality. 

Defensively, the Panthers flew around and made a ton of plays last week against the Jets. They pressured the heck out of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson registering six sacks and ten QB hits. That defensive front is going to have a much tougher challenge this week with the Saints offensive line who is considered to be one of the top units in the league. 

Of course, Phil Snow would like to dial up a ton of pressure on Winston but he can't be overaggressive or it will result in Winston slicing and dicing up the secondary with a bunch of quick passes and check downs to Kamara. The fact of the matter is, Kamara is going to do his thing. He's going to get his touches, get his yards, and is going to be hard to contain. The one thing Carolina can't afford to have happen is let someone else feast on them in addition to Kamara. That's when things could start to get out of hand for the defense. 

Despite the performance the Saints put on in week one, this has the makings of a very tight football game. I'll release my score prediction for this matchup on Saturday along with the rest of our staff here at All Panthers on Sports Illustrated.

Kickoff between the Panthers and Saints is set for 1 p.m. EST on FOX.

You can follow us for future coverage by clicking "Follow" on the top righthand corner of the page. Also, be sure to like us on Facebook & Twitter:

Facebook - @PanthersOnSI

Twitter - @SI_Panthers and Schuyler Callihan at @Callihan_.