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Interview with the Enemy: Saints look to go streaking against Carolina

Walker Clement of Cat Scratch Reader joins us to preview the NFC South’s Week 15 matchup.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Dec 3, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Chris Banjo (31) celebrates after a defensive stop against the Carolina Panthers during the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Another week of football, and another week of our Interview with the Enemy series. This week, Walker Clement of Cat Scratch Reader answers 5 quick questions about the first showdown of 2018 of two NFC South rivals: the Carolina Panthers hosting the New Orleans Saints.


The Panthers have lost five in a row, but the last four have been one-possession games. Has it just been bad luck, or is there something deeper to blame?

In a word? Yes. The Panthers have been a combination of bad luck, bad play, and bad coaching. Their defense has forgotten how to tackle at the same time their pass rush has aged out of relevancy. Meanwhile, Cam Newton’s shoulder is clearly not 100%. He needs a lighter workload and time to recover. At the same time, his young receivers need time in practice to develop chemistry with their quarterback. The Panthers coaching staff has responded by sitting Newton in in practice one to two days a week and the asking him to throw 40+ passes a game on Sunday. Mix in terrible play calls in the red zone and you end up with a Panthers team whose sum is significantly less than its parts.

How hot is Ron Rivera’s seat right now? Would a loss at home to the Saints warm it up any more?

Nobody really has any idea. A lot of fans want him gone already. There are rumors from inside the building that suggest a new contract is more likely than a dismissal. The truth is that David Tepper hasn’t made a huge public impression yet. His only big move has been hiring Tom Glick as team president. Otherwise, he has made any number of comments that can be taken whichever way you’d like. I wrote this week that losing to the Browns has to hurt for a former Pittsburgh guy, but that is purely conjecture. I personally don’t think Rivera is a coach capable of sustained success in the NFL. If Sean Payton’s smart then he is keeping an eye on the Rams as the playoffs approach. A late season win against the Saints would do wonders for Rivera’s case to keep his job, and Payton should throw him one if it doesn’t cost the Saints anything in terms of playoff seeding.

If you were Sean Payton, how would you game plan to attack the Panthers defense?

Deep, early, and often. The Panthers have been broken on deep passing plays in each of their last five games. They have allowed plays of 36, 43, 48, 51, 53, 54, 66, and 75 yards. The secondary isn’t asked to cover people closely and the pass rush can’t get home. You can consider Julius Peppers and Mario Addison to be your grandparents. You love them and they are still great people who know how to do great things, but you’re going to be disappointed if you ask them to eat dinner after 4 PM. It is late in the season and the Panthers pass rush has their eyes on bed and not in the backfield.The result is wide open receivers twenty or more yards down field. Drew Brees and Michael Thomas should be able to eat this team alive.

Who is one player on the Panthers who Saints fans might not be familiar with that you expect to make an impact on this game?

Wide receiver Curtis Samuel. He disappointed last week with a number of drops on catchable balls, but he was a big part of their game plan. The 2017 second round pick’s snap counts have been rising each week this season and he appears to have taken over the number 2 role as rookie D.J. Moore has ascended to the top of the wide receiver depth chart. Samuel is a converted running back from Ohio State who is just starting to impress with his receiving ability. His rise in the Panthers’ offense is due primarily to his exceptional speed. The Panthers, when they are actually interested in scoring points, like to use a lot of misdirection to leverage the speed of Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel into big plays. He’s a guy the Panthers hope will factor into their offensive game plans for years to come.

What’s your prediction for the game? Final score?

I think the Saints score early and the Saints score often. The Panthers will score once, maybe twice, per half and otherwise have a lot of promising drives that end in punts or turnovers. That is the exact same game the Panthers have played for the last five weeks, except they haven’t faced an offense of the Saints’ caliber yet this season. The closest they have come is Pittsburgh, who hung 52 on them. You could make an argument that division games are weird, but I think Payton has the Panthers’ number at this point. Final score will be in the neighborhood of 38-13.


A big thanks to Walker for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure you check out his work and the rest of the good folks at Cat Scratch Reader for tons of Panthers content. You can follow Walker on Twitter @MetaphorGuy, Cat Scratch Reader @CatScratchReadr, and of course you can always follow me @dunnellz.