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It’s still early, but the stakes are high in the Saints vs. Panthers matchup

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

We are approximately five days removed from the New Orleans Saints’ heated battle with division opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs finally snapped their four-game losing streak when they defeated New Orleans 20-10. The game was tied up at 3-3 for three quarters until the drama unfolded in the fourth. A combination of a player ejection, numerous turnovers, and controversial calls by the officials sealed the Saints’ fate in Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.

However, what was more alarming about Sunday’s loss against Tampa was the many issues surrounding the Saints’ offense right now. Before kickoff, a report was released by Fox Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer on how quarterback Jameis Winston would be playing with four fractures in his back. The game showed that Winston’s back injury significantly impacted his movement as a quarterback.

He turned the football over three times in last Sunday’s matchup. Throughout the week, there has been a constant debate on what caused Winston to revert to his Tampa ways. Many analysts believe that Winston’s injury is why there were so many miscues in last Sunday’s contest, while others say he took too many risks to lead the team from behind. It has been an ongoing problem for the Saints’ first two weeks of the season.

Their offense has taken almost the entire game to become productive. The difference between facing the Buccaneers and the Falcons in the fourth quarter was that Tampa’s defense was levels above Atlanta’s when it comes to talent. The Saints’ Week 3 opponent, the Carolina Panthers, head into Sunday’s game seeking to get their first win of the season. They have lost their first two games by a total of five points. Carolina may have lost their first two matchups by five points, but much more is at stake. Today, we will break down both teams and the potential effect a loss could have as the season progresses.

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have gone to great lengths to find a franchise quarterback for the past two seasons. Former Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater was Carolina’s man under center at one point. After one year, the Panthers’ front office decided to part ways with Bridgewater and inserted Sam Darnold into the position. Darnold went down with an injury, and the Panthers brought in Cam Newton, a quarterback with a previous stint.

Newton’s second run with the Panthers did not work out, and Darnold is not viewed as the next solution. Their latest attempt to find their next franchise QB is Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns after they decided to pursue Deshaun Watson. So far, the Panthers are 0-2 with the former Oklahoma Sooner at quarterback.

A win this Sunday against New Orleans settles things a little in Charlotte. On the other hand, a loss to New Orleans could mean the end for head coach Matt Rhule is near. He has not lived up to the hype of becoming the next great coach that transitioned from college football to the professional ranks. His overall record as an NFL head coach is 10-25.

New Orleans Saints

For the entire summer, we were told by many Saints reporters, analysts, and talk radio personalities that the offense would be vastly improved. So far, we have only seen that type of production in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints have to determine what their identity is going to be on offense as the season progresses. Will they be a team that gets a done through the air, or will an efficient rushing attack be enough to be successful this season?

Their defense is so good that they can complement either style of offense. Hopefully, Saints fans will get that answer this Sunday against Carolina. A 1-2 start for New Orleans will lead to more speculation on if Winston is the guy that can elevate this group to a successful year. The calls to insert backup QB Andy Dalton into the lineup will grow even louder.

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Meet Derrick Branch, the founder and chief wordsmith at Strike 7 Sports. With a sharp focus on the NFL and the NBA, Derrick's expertise in sports is matched only by his passion for sharing it with others. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the prestigious University of Arizona Global. Let his insightful and engaging writing take you to the heart of the action.

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