Schuyler Callihan: Panthers 23, Saints 21
If the Panthers want to steal one away from the Saints this season, this is going to be their best opportunity to do so. It's early in the season, at home, and New Orleans could be without four defensive starters plus wide receiver Michael Thomas and center Erik McCoy. The red zone has been a sore spot for the Panthers over the past year but I believe this will be the week where they figure some things out. I've got the Panthers squeezing out a close one off the foot of Zane Gonzalez - what a way to make your impact known in your first game with a new team.
Matt Welch: Saints 24, Panthers 20
This game is going to come down to Carolina’s defense and New Orleans’ offense. Jameis Winston and the Saints looked like little could bother them in their Week 1 victory and the Panthers defense looked the part as well. If Carolina’s front seven can pressure Winston and force throws under pressure while keeping Winston contained, this score could very well be flipped the other way. But if there’s one thing about Winston, it’s that he loves playing the game and has never shied away from throwing under pressure. Carolina’s secondary will get an early test here. On the other side of the ball, Sam Darnold is going to have to stretch the field a little better and move the ball efficiently all day without giving the Saints extra chances with the football. I still see this one leaning toward the Saints while Darnold and Co. continue to find a rhythm.
Jeff Haseley: Panthers 20, Saints 17
This much we know, Sam Darnold's Panthers are 1-0. Christian McCaffrey is back and the offense fuels off his talent and play-calling deception involving his presence. The defense played exceptionally well in the first half against the Jets and managed to close the game despite letting off the defensive pressure. All told, they forced 7 punts in 12 possessions and allowed only one red zone possession to New York. They will have a true test this week against a Saints team that throttled the hapless, unprepared Packers in Week 1. Carolina can win this game if their defense shows up for four quarters and their offense succeeds with 50% or higher in red-zone touchdown percentage. The 44.5 point total in this game may be a little high. Carolina produced six sacks and forced one interception. New Orleans had two sacks and forced three turnovers. This game could come down to which team capitalizes on turnovers. A big play on defense resulting in a score or a short field may decide the victor. Carolina squeaks out a win in large part to their defense.
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