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 final game of the 2018 NFL regular season: the New Orleans Saints hosting the Carolina Panthers.
Now that the Panthers are officially out of the playoffs, is a loss a better outcome for the Panthers at this point?
Technically, yes. We have a chance to move up in the draft and leapfrog, with the right combination of Week 17 results, both the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Selecting before a division rival always feels good on Draft Day --like when the Panthers grabbed current and future stud wide receiver D.J. Moore right before the Falcons, forcing them to settle for Calvin Ridley.
That said, I can never quite bring myself to root for a loss. The Panthers can’t do anything with a win that affects their path through the playoffs beyond putting a sour taste in their mouth and Drew Brees is a good enough leader to use that for motivation. My best hope, as a Panthers fan, is to root for a tie. Nobody knows what to do with those or how to feel about them. A solid tie pushes the Saints into the playoffs with a generally weird sense of unease that knocks them off their game and hopefully out of the season altogether in the Divisional round.
What QB is suiting up for the Panthers in Week 17 and what can we expect out of him?
Kyle Allen will be starting in place of the injured Taylor Heinicke. Yeah, the Panthers have had a rough season. You can expect Norv Turner to throw the kitchen sink at the field in terms of personnel, groupings, and responsibilities. This is a preseason game for them and they are going to take advantage of the live fire drills to evaluate some of their younger talent. That means names you have never heard of being mentioned on the broadcast when they almost make catches or almost make tackles. Just like the halcyon days of Augusts past.
Are there any individual or team records on the horizon in Week 17 that the Panthers will be striving for?
Most quarterbacks played in a single season, maybe? Although, it would be hard to give 2010 a true run for its money. The real milestone is that Christian McCaffrey can become the third back in NFL history and the first in Panthers’ to post 1000 yards rushing and 1000 yards receiving in the same season. He would need 155 yards receiving on Sunday to reach that record. This would require an even more extreme than usual focus on McCaffrey in the game plan. He is averaging ‘only’ 56 yards per game as a receiver. The Panthers would be insane to chase this record in a meaningless game when he already set the NFL record for receptions by a running back and the Panthers’ record for most catches from any position. He passed Steve Smith for the franchise reception record.
Is the Panthers fanbase happy that Riverboat Ron has been embraced as the head coach of the Panthers in 2019?
It is a mixed bag. A FanPulse poll back in November showed that 51% of fans didn’t think of Rivera as the right coach for the Panthers. His team has lost four straight games since then. Still, he has been the most successful coach in Panthers’ history. If he isn’t a good coach then he is the closest thing Carolina has seen. I think most fans will talk themselves into giving Rivera one more chance, but an unsuccessful 2019 will see a lot of loud conversations about how everybody knew they should have moved on from him after this season or before.
What are your predictions for the Saints in the postseason?
I predict Drew Brees will retire before the first game of the playoffs and Sean Payton, in a fit of panic, will sign Tim Tebow to run a dual quarterback system with Taysom Hill. In reality, I think the Saints’ struggles over the last few weeks were harbingers of flaws that will prove fatal against good teams. They might take the Cowboys or the Eagles, if they make it, but I’m not sure I’d put money on the Saints against any other NFC playoff team. Home field advantage will be huge, but their dome is only so super. The Rams or the Bears are my top picks for the NFC Champion this season.
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.