This afternoon, the New Orleans Saints host the Carolina Panthers in the final game of the 2012 season for both teams, and since it's Sunday morning, that means I've got your red-hot Week 17 Hot Reads right here!
** Once you've finished reading them and giving your take in the comment section, don't forget to let us know what you're wearing, eating, and drinking for this glorious gameday. It's our last one for quite a while, so we need to enjoy it as much as we can. Let's make this pre-pre-pre-pre-game Open Thread one for the ages! **
In a season during which the Panthers have a 41% third-down conversion rate, back in Week 2, the Saints defense allowed them to convert 6 out of 12 attempts on third down. A nice dose of third down shutdowns will kill their drives and give more chances for the Saints offense to light up the scoreboard.
What I'd Like To See: A stifling Saints defense rise to the occasion and hold the Panthers to a third down conversion rate of less than 33%.
Checkdown # 1
An epic failure in the last game was the defense's inability to pull off red zone rejections. They let the Panthers score touchdowns 4 out of the 5 times they made it inside the Saints' 20-yard line. Given that Carolina's season average is 59%, that was quite a generous host's gift for the Saints to give the Panthers. They cannot afford to be that giving this time around.
What I'd Like To See: A consistent defensive stand of stands resulting in a miniscule 25% red zone touchdown rate for Carolina.
Checkdown # 2
Drew Brees has already tied his second-highest interception total in a season with 18 on the year, and in the last game, he pitched two to the other team, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Unless you're FPK, I know I don't need to tell you how to do the math to figure out what kind of damage that does in what would end up as an eight-point loss.
What I'd Like To See: Brees only throw the ball to the guys wearing the black jerseys. You hear that, Drew? NO INTERCEPTIONS!
The 2012 defense has been under siege from all directions all season long, and with good reason. Starting with the final Niners drive last January, they have given up yards at a historically high rate. Cam and the other Pussycats ran all over them last time to the tune of 219 yards and three touchdowns (vs. the 163 yards and two touchdowns the Saints running game produced), which was almost half the 463 total yards allowed in the whole game.
What I'd Like To See: I have asked an awful lot of the defense so far in this Hot Reads post, so I'm going to go easy on them in this safety valve. Listen up, you chowdah heads!! (how's my Steve Spagnuolo accent sound?) Just hold those Panthers to less rushing yards and rushing touchdowns than your own offense's ground game can muster, even without PT. Maybe TUSK!!! will help out by unleashing some pent-up Ivory-on-the-pine-based rushing frustration all over them. A reprise of his 2011 Week 17 performance against them (19 for 127 and a TD) would be just about right...