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Interview with the Enemy: Carolina Panthers

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Our pal Walker Clement of Cat Scratch Reader joins us to preview our first contest against our division rival.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Pardon the old picture from the article, but the Falcons’ dejected expressions warms my heart this cold November morning.

We’re back again with the next segment in the Interview with the Enemy series. This week, Walker Clement of Cat Scratch Reader answers 5 quick questions before the Week 12 matchup on Sunday: the New Orleans Saints hosting the division rival Carolina Panthers.

After no interceptions in his first four games, Kyle Allen now has 9 interceptions in his last four. Has he turned into a pumpkin at midnight or do we think this is just an aberration?

He didn’t turn into a pumpkin so much as the oven finally heated up enough to bake him into a pie. All the ingredients for his turnover spree have been there since the beginning, the Panthers, their opponents’ defenses, and luck have just finally started to combine to expose his talents for what they are. Allen’s deep ball accuracy and the strength he is capable of putting into those throws leads to a number of short ducks that are easily picked off. Combined with his often risky decision making and they result in a number of highly interceptable passes. The quantity of his turnovers will ebb and flow with any given game, but the circumstances that have created them are ones that are baked into Allen’s talents and the Panthers game plan which seems dead set on exposing them.

Christian McCaffrey is having an MVP-caliber year (well, as far as any non-quarterback can have, I suppose). Does he have a weakness? What’s the secret to stopping him?

The secret to stopping him is putting eight or more men in the box and then getting lucky. McCaffrey doesn’t have a weakness yet, as demonstrated by Madden raising his rating this week to a 99 overall--making him the youngest running back to achieve that distinction. That may change if the Panthers continue to over use him to the point of injury this season, but he is golden right now. Assuming his health going forward, McCaffrey might be that rare running back who is worth signing to a big contract. He is so far believably filling Cam Newton’s role on offense as “the player being asked to carry the entire team on his back.

What are the Panthers realistic expectations for the remainder of 2019? Is a playoff berth still a realistic outcome in the Carolina fanbase, or are we already looking to 2020?

That depends on who you ask. There are a number of people of who believe in the infallibility of these Panthers in direct spite of the evidence of their current quarterback limitations. The team, however, is on a losing streak that has placed them multiple games back in both the wildcard and NFC South races. A lot of the responsibility for that falls on the front office and how they handled an injured Cam Newton at the start of the season. Most Panthers fans are looking to 2020 with an eye on what organizational changes new owner David Tepper might make.

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

Quick passes, runs predicated on misdirection, and screens seem to baffle this defense at every turn. The Panthers are fast up front, but that has left them vulnerable to taking the wrong first step and ending up in the wrong place. The other way to attack them is to stress their zone coverage with deep and intermediate passes. The Panthers secondary has all missed various amounts of time due to injury. The resulting inconsistency in personnel has led to communications issues. In other words, they have allowed some easy big plays.

What is your prediction for the game? Who wins? Final score?

Every week features a weird game that baffles experts and fans alike. Think the Buccaneers beating a good team in the last five years. This will not be one of those games. If the Saints are paying attention then they should have this game by a mile. My best guess at a score would 31 - 9.

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Thank-you, Walker, for taking the time to answer our questions. Saints fans, make sure you check out Walker and the work his guys are doing over at Cat Scratch Reader. You can follow Cat Scratch Reader on Twitter @CatScratchReadr, Walker @MetaphorGuy, and of course you can follow me @dunnellz.