First Look: Panthers vs. Saints

The Saints host the Panthers in a NFC South showdown, as New Orleans looks to keep pace with the Bucs.
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After a week of rest, the Saints (3-2) are back to work to host the Panthers (3-3) inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the team's first home noon kickoff of the season. Teddy Bridgewater returns to take on his former squad, and is looking to help get back on track after a rough outing against the Bears. Sean Payton and company have hopefully got some things cleaned up during the bye, and should get back some big players.

What to Watch For

Michael Thomas. The drama seems to be over or at least in the past for the Saints, and Thomas is hopefully about to unleash his wrath on opposing secondaries. The offense has done a formidable job over the past couple of games after overcoming struggles without Thomas early. Even if Thomas isn't a big factor on the stat sheet, just having his presence should only help the New Orleans offensive attack. He's going to be a big part of what the Saints like to do, and should have a killer rest of the season.

Adjustments from the bye week. We don't need to see perfection from the Saints, but improvements are expected. The biggest concern is on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in coverage. Miscommunications are something that can be fixed, as well as basic fundamentals like tackling and such. We'd also like to see the Saints play more disciplined, as flags have essentially killed them all season. Between that and some better play calling and better Taysom Hill utilization, there should be a better Saints product on the field this Sunday.

Fan presence. You can't call 3,000 fans an impact in the Superdome, but it will be good to see some more there as opposed to the 750 that have been allowed over the past two home games. This is a big step in the right direction, as the hope is to gradually increase and get up to 15,000 by the home game against the 49ers. Needless to say, it'll be a hot ticket, and the lower bowl will be used.

Teddy's return. Teddy Bridgewater may have only spent two seasons with the Saints, but his impact on and off the field left its mark. Bridgewater blossomed under Sean Payton, filling in at a time where the unthinkable happened when Drew Brees was lost due to injury. Bridgewater's perfect 5-0 record was no joke, as New Orleans beat some pretty tough opponents during his time as a starter. Bridgewater looks to overcome a bad showing against the Bears last week, and will have his work cut out for him with the Saints defense. He poses an interesting challenge for Dennis Allen, as he can escape the pocket and isn't afraid to run. New Orleans has had its fair share of defending against this so far.

Health and availability. Having over 10 players on an injury report is never ideal, but that's the boat the Saints were in before playing the Chargers. While they did get some players like Jared Cook and Marcus Davenport back, they weren't 100 percent. We're looking for them to be close to that this week, as well as a return of Janoris Jenkins, Deonte Harris, and Justin Hardee Sr. Other players like Kiko Alonso and Ty Montgomery are hopefully able to return soon, which comes at a pretty good time for the Saints.