It’s Week 13, and we’re back again with the Interview with the Enemy series. This week, Bradley Smith of Cat Scratch Reader answers 5 quick questions about the upcoming matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers.
The last time our teams met, Cam was a little banged up, you were out Greg Olsen and (early in the game) Kelvin Benjamin. How has your team, either in personnel or scheme, since Week 3?
We inserted Devin Funchess into that #1 receiver role after trading Benjamin to Buffalo, and he's flourished there. Christian McCaffrey is starting to find his legs as a between the tackles runner, and Ed Dickson has filled in decently at the tight end position. The Panthers have started to let Newton run more, and the offense has picked up its efficiency since.
How has the offense been able to replace the loss of Kelvin Benjamin after his trade to Buffalo?
Benjamin has been replaced by Devin Funchess, who has played much better as the #1 option in the Panthers offense. The Panthers are also using Christian McCaffrey as a receiver to give Cam Newton more options in case the wide receivers can't get open down field. We're still trying to find our replacement for Ted Ginn, though. . . but the Panthers really like what they see in Kaelin Clay. I'm not quite ready to crown him the starting slot receiver, but I do have high hopes that he can grow into that role as time goes on.
Has Christian McCaffrey finally taken over the starting role from Jonathan Stewart, or do both have a place in the Carolina offense?
The Panthers still start Jonathan Stewart, but both running backs are seeing plenty of action on the field. McCaffrey is getting a lot of time as a receiving option out of the backfield because he's very effective in space. Stewart still gets a big share of carries - especially on first down - so the Saints will have to be prepared to stop both of them on Sunday.
Which player that Saints fans might not have heard of do you expect to make an impact in this game?
Kaelin Clay sealed our win over the Jets with a punt returned for a touchdown that no one saw coming, so the Saints should probably keep an eye on him. When he gets into the open field, he's very good at making people miss. He has speed for days, too.
Final predictions for the game? Score?
I think this is going to be a much closer game than the last time these two teams met. I believe the Panthers will be able to move the ball efficiently on offense and will be able to match scores with the Saints. I'm thinking this one's going to come down to whoever has the ball with less than two minutes left in the game. I have to pick the Panthers, though. . . but it's going to be close. Panthers 38 - Saints 35.
Thank-you, Bradley, for taking the time to answer our questions. Saints fans, make sure you check out Bradley and the work his guys are doing over at Cat Scratch Reader. You can follow Bradley on Twitter @bdubsmitty and Cat Scratch Reader @CatScratchReadr, and as always you can follow me @dunnellz.