After such a great start to the season, the Saints defense has really fallen off. They began the season holding five of their first six opponents to 20 or less points per game, but in their last five games, they’re allowing 25.6 points per game, and with this offense, they aren’t going to win too many more games if they keep playing like this.
The Panthers provide a great opportunity for this defense to get back on track. Led by first overall pick Bryce Young, the Panthers offense ranks 29th in the league, scoring just over 15 points per game. They don’t have a whole lot of weapons and it’s been evident that Young isn’t capable of carrying a team without any true threats out wide.
Marshon Lattimore is on IR, so once again Paulson Adebo and Alontae Taylor will need big games. Taylor has gotten shredded in the slot recently, but the Panthers don’t really have a super dangerous threat in the slot, so he should be able to handle his matchup. Adebo will likely line up with Adam Thielen for most of the game, and while Thielen is having a pretty good season, he’s nowhere near as explosive as he used to be and Adebo is playing the best ball of his young career this season.
The Panthers have also gotten next to nothing going in the run game with newly signed Miles Sanders and Chubba Hubbard leading the charge. Hubbard has totaled just north of 570 yards on the ground and is averaging 3.9 yards per carry while Sanders has accumulated 325 yards on 3.1 yards per carry.
The Saints rush defense has been as bad as it’s been in a while, but this is a game where they should be able to control the line of scrimmage. With Bryan Bresee, Cam Jordan and company upfront, they SHOULD be able to bully the Panthers in the run game even though they failed to do so earlier this season.
Bryce Young has also proven to not be too much of a threat using his legs in his rookie campaign. He’s ran the ball 25 times for 161 yards and hasn’t hit pay dirt in the run game. The Saints are notorious for getting torched by mobile QB’s, so not having that be a major threat bodes well for the Saints.
The Saints have also been torched by opposing tight ends, especially in the past four games. Cole Kmet, TJ Hockenson and Sam LaPorta have all gone for 50+ yards and a touchdown with Hockenson and LaPorta both going for 130+.
Tight ends vs. the Saints defense since November 5th— Chris Rosvoglou (@RosvoglouReport) December 5, 2023
Cole Kmet - 6 catches for 55 yards, 2 TDs
TJ Hockenson - 11 catches for 134 yards, TD
Kyle Pitts - 2 catches for 22 yards
Sam LaPorta - 9 catches for 140 yards, TD
Hayden Hurst hasn’t developed into the tight end they’ve hoped for since acquiring him, but he can still be a threat in the pass game. He’s yet to eclipse the 200-yard receiving mark, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets more involved against the Saints this weekend.
Overall, the Saints shouldn’t have a problem with this very lackluster Panthers offense, but with the way they’ve been playing recently, I wouldn’t be surprised if they make Bryce Young look pretty good. They will need to force a couple of turnovers to balance out the almost guaranteed turnover that Jameis Winston is going to give away.
If they can play half as well as they did earlier this season and force a takeaway or two, they should be completely fine, but we’ll see, because we never know what we’re getting with this team.