The New Orleans Saints won one of last week’s most important key matchups. The Green Bay Packers offensive line was not able to handle the onslaught of the Saints pass rush. This week, the Saints travel to Carolina to face the Panthers in NFC South action. The Panthers are fresh off of a win against the New York Jets and are hoping to make noise within the division. The divisional battle will be won with matchups between these two familiar teams. Let’s examine some of the key matchups between the Saints and Panthers in week two of the NFL regular season.
Christian McCaffrey vs Saints Linebackers
The Saints linebacker unit has gotten much of the praise for the defense this week. Last year, these linebackers were an issue in coverage and tackling but those issues seem to have disappeared. Zack Baun, Kaden Ellis, and Kwon Alexander have bolstered the unit and helped Demario Davis. This unit held the Packers running backs to just three catches in the game. They will need to step up this week though, as they face one of the most dynamic backs in the league.
As good as they are, the Packers running backs are not Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey is one of the most dangerous running backs in the league, especially at catching the ball out of the backfield. This week, he will test the Saints linebackers like they have not been tested yet. If this Saints unit wants to show that they can be special, limiting McCaffrey would do it. McCaffrey caught nine passes in his first action since coming back from injury and added another 21 rushes. Each and every play, the Saints linebackers will need to account for McCaffrey or run the risk of being on the bad end of a highlight reel.
Marquez Callaway vs Panthers Secondary
The Carolina Panthers secondary was troubled last week against Corey Davis, who put up 97 yards and two touchdowns. This week, Marquez Callaway will need to show he can do the same. Last week, Callaway was mostly shut down by Jaire Alexander. This is not a knock on Callaway as Alexander is one of the league’s best cornerback. The Panthers do not have this kind of player though. Jameis Winston needs a receiver to step up and this will be the week Callaway could show that he is ready to be the Saints number one receiver.
Panthers Receivers vs Saints Cornerbacks
The main question mark here, is what Saints cornerbacks are going to be available. Marshon Lattimore was injured in last weeks game and will miss a couple of weeks. Ken Crawley last weeks game and his status for this week is uncertain. P.J. Williams has been on the injury report all week. It is likely the Saints have a new face and a rookie starting Sunday. The Saints traded for Bradley Roby last week but this will be his first week of practice with the team. Paulson Adebo was good last week in his first action of the season, but he is a rookie still learning in the NFL. The Saints will have a stitched together cornerback squad on the field against a deep Panthers wide receiver group.
Outside of Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers are led by a good receiver unit. D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall Jr all produced in their first game together in 2021. This was their first game with new quarterback Sam Darnold as well. Anderson scored a long 57-yard touchdown while Moore and Marshall were peppered with targets. Moore turned eight targets into six catches for 80 yards. Marshall was targeted six times in his rookie debut. He only caught three of these for 26 yards though. Darnold and the Panthers spread the ball around to their many receivers. Slowing these three playmakers down could be the determining factor in a Saints victory. The Saints will have to be ready for all three receivers on Sunday.
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