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Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints: What we’re watching

It’s an important game for both clubs, so what are some things we’ll be watching for on the Saints to bring a victory?

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Both the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers know what’s at stake in Week 6, and there’s arguably more pressure on Ron Rivera’s club to put together a victory. It’s the third straight NFC South game the Panthers have on their hands, but the Saints have much to prove after getting their first win of the season in Week 4. The black and gold had a week off, and extra time to prepare for this game, so what should we be watching for?

Can Dennis Allen get inside Cam Newton’s head?

Newton’s 6-4 record against the Saints since 2011 is duly noted, and he’s won his last three games by being the difference. Newton is red-hot against the Saints, totaling 12 touchdowns (10 passing, 2 rushing) in the last three meetings. Needless to say, there’s a great deal of pressure on the team’s front seven to deliver.

Paul Kruger (back) is questionable to play, so one would have to assume Kasim Edebali will start opposite Cameron Jordan should Kruger not be able to go. One of the problems the Saints have had over the years is wrapping up Newton, and he’s been able to extend plays to make them pay for it. Whatever Allen’s plan of attack is for Newton, it had better include putting plenty of pressure and hits on him.

Can the Saints build and sustain momentum?

We keep seeing polar opposites in performance from the offense and defense. When something bad happens to the Saints, it tends to create a ripple effect where they haven’t been able to weather the storm and overcome. We’d just settle for the Saints to play well at home, and even that’s been an issue. In their past seven home games, the team is allowing 38 points per game. The sad part in all of this is that they’re scoring on offense, but it’s not enough.

We’ve seen the Saints get off to hot starts or rally from behind, but sustaining that momentum would be what we want to see against the Panthers.

Whoever has to guard against Greg Olsen

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen has loved playing the New Orleans Saints recently, and for good reason. Olsen’s last three games against the Saints have him averaging 11 targets per contest, and he’s racked up 27 catches for 335 yards and three touchdowns. He’s probably wishing Brandon Browner was still playing for the team.

Whether Dennis Allen chooses to put a linebacker, safety, or cornerback on Olsen, they’ll have their work cut out for them. Olsen’s hot start has seen him targeted nearly 10 times per game, and Sean Payton talked about how difficult it is to account for him on Wednesday.

“He’s over to one side, much like we did with Jimmy (Graham) and if you’re playing corners over to the receiver, you’re going to have him isolated over to the safety or linebacker.”

Drew Brees facing an inexperienced secondary

The Panthers will be without cornerbacks Robert McClain (hamstring) and James Bradberry (foot). There’s no more Bene Benwikere or Josh Norman back there, so this matchup has all the makings of a big game for Drew Brees. Jameis Winston wasn’t particularly strong in Monday night’s upset, but he did find seven different receivers in the game. Mike Evans (6-89-TD) had a very strong game, and Brees has three strong targets of his own to help exploit the Panthers.

The front line protection will obviously be a key here, but Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, and Willie Snead (who is back to 100 percent) could all have big games.