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Scouting the Saints 2015 Opponents: Week 3 vs. Carolina Panthers

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Let's dissect each of our opponents this upcoming season.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints travel to B of A Stadium on Sunday, September 27th, to face the Carolina Panthers in the first of their 2 games this season. Let’s do some breakdowns ahead of the match-up to get a glimpse of what the Saints are marching into.

Series Matchup All-Time

(Full list here, via The Football Database)

Saints 19 - Panthers 21

We have the opportunity to get this series back to .500 apiece by the end of the season.

Last 5 Games

(2014-2015) Panthers 41 - Saints 10

(2014-2015) Saints 28 - Panthers 10

(2013-2014) Saints 13 - Panthers 17

(2013-2014) Panthers 13 - Saints 31

(2012-2013) Panthers 44 - Saints 38

Though the Saints had a 4-game win streak against the Panthers from the second game of 2010 to the first game of 2012; The Saints are 6-4 against Carolina over the past 10 seasons.

2014-2015 Panthers Totals

(Saints #1 total offense, #31 total defense according to ESPN)

Total Offense #16

Passing/YPG #19

Rushing/YPG #7

Total Defense #10

Passing/YPG #11

Rushing/YPG #16

Projected Rosters

Saints

Panthers

Offense

QB

Drew Brees

Cam Newton

Luke McCown

Derek Anderson

Garrett Grayson

Joe Webb

RB

Mark Ingram

Jonathan Stewart

CJ Spiller

Fozzy Whittaker

Khiry Robinson

Cameron Artis-Payne

WR

Brandin Cooks

Ted Ginn, Jr.

Marques Colston

Philly Brown

Willie Snead

Jerricho Cotchery

TE

Josh Hill

Greg Olsen

Benjamin Watson

Ed Dickson

LT

Terron Armstead

Michael Oher

LG

Tim Lelito

Andrew Norwell

C

Max Unger

Ryan Kalil

RG

Jahri Evans

Trai Turner

RT

Zach Strief

Mike Remmers

Defense

LDE

Akiem Hicks

Charles Johnson

LDT

John Jenkins

Star Lotulelei

RDT

Kevin Williams

Kawann Short

RDE

Cam Jordan

Kony Ealy

Sam

Hau’oli Kikaha

A.J. Klein

Mike

Stephone Anthony

Luke Kuechly

Will

Dannell Ellerbe

Thomas Davis

LCB

Keenan Lewis

Charles Tillman

RCB

Brandon Browner

Josh Norman

NCB

Delvin Breaux

Bene Benwikere

SS

Kenny Vaccaro

Roman Harper

FS

Jairus Byrd

Kurt Coleman

Special Teams

K

Zach Hocker

Graham Gano

P

Thomas Morstead

Brad Nortman

Key Panthers

Offense

Cam Newton (2x Pro Bowl): Cam "Scramble" Newton will be doing a lot of running around and high balling his receivers. Fortunately (for the Panthers), with a trio of 6'5" pass catchers, he should see his 2014 sub-60 completion percentage improve (if Benajmin can catch some of the throws). Given the dramatic split in the series last season (Saints fans will recall a most unfortunate Dome shellacking the second game last season), projections of Newton's performance are highly variable. Given his athleticism and dangerous tuck-and-run, Stephone Anthony and Dannell Ellerbe will have their hands full.

Greg Olsen (1x Pro Bowl): Greg Olsen emerged as one of the premier all-around TEs last season. PFF's #3 ranked TE for 2014 pulled in 84 receptions for over 1000 yards and 6 TDs. He's a threat in the receiving game and is no slouch at the line providing blocking duties for his itinerant QB. While notably limited the first match-up against the Saints last season (3 of 4 receptions for 30 yards), he shredded the Saints secondary for 10/11, 70 yards and a TD.

Ryan Kalil (4x Pro Bowl, 1x FT All-Pro): While he didn't have a spectacular 2014, Kalil remains a fixture as one of the better centers in the league. It's looking to be an Unger-Kalil duel for the best center in the NFC South this season.

Defense

Luke Kuechly (2x Pro Bowl, 2x FT All-Pro): Like with Calais Campbell in week 1 and Gerald McCoy in week 2, the Saints face a top-tier defender yet again in (the unfairly) 24 year old Luke Kuechly. PFF's #1 ILB (and the best cover ILB in the NFL by a good margin) managed 15 tackles and a pair of stuffs in two games against the Saints last season. Expect his former Boston College teammate, Kasim Edebali, to emerge from the sidelines with "Neunundneunzig Luftballons" playing on the Jumbotron, and hit Kuechly with a foldable metal chair.

Shaq Thompson: I almost put Thomas Davis here, or Bene Benwikere, the 2nd year CB out of San Jose State who graded PFF's #18 CB his rookie season, but the potential for Shaq Thompson to be an immediate impact WLB together with a fierce combo in Kuechly and Davis was too much to overlook. He projects as a sideline-to-sideline LB in the mold of guys like Lavonte David and DeAndre Levy and if he plays at a fraction of his potential this season, he would be a valuable addition to the Panthers defense.

TL;DR

This has historically been and will continue to be a toss-up for the foreseeable future. The Saints played solid football against the Panthers in a 28-10 first series game in 2014, only to turn around and get absolutely humiliated in the Dome. As Saints fans, we know that none of what is being written here is new. If Brees and co. can get into a rhythm early, it will be difficult for the Panthers offense to keep pace. The flip side applies here too, and though the Panthers did little in the way of addressing their offensive line either in free agency or via the draft, they added two potential key contributors in Thompson and Funchess (and traded up for the latter, oddly) on either side of the ball.

First of two match-ups against the Panthers this year with a chance to equalize the series. Who Dat!

Feedback on depth chart and other bits of information to include in this series is appreciated.