To win the NFC South, one would think the road would lead through New Orleans. In fact, ever since they won the Superbowl and divisional title in 2009, this has been exactly the case as going into 2012, the Saints will be four time defending NFC South Champions.
Although it doesn’t seem they will have much trouble defending this title for a fifth year in a row, a young team like the Carolina Panthers, who got that much better last year with the draft pick of Cam Newton, will certainly have some noise to make in this division (1pm ET, Sunday).
Let’s take a look at their week two match-up which will see one talented team fall down to 0-2 on the season.
Does the Panthers Defense Have an Answer to the Passing Attack of Drew Brees?
Considering he set an NFL record for most passing yards in a season just last year, I’d venture to guess the answer is no.
Even in a week one loss to the Washington Redskins and their rookie QB Robert Griffin III, Brees still managed to throw for 339 yards and three touchdowns. He did have two interceptions as well but once again for the Saints, it wasn’t Brees who lost them the game.
Attempting 52 passes, but completing just 24 of them, Brees did not have his best game. What he did do however is what Brees does so often and that is put the Saints in a position to win. Although it wasn’t a great start for the Saints QB, Brees put together a monster fourth quarter. He led several scoring drives but the Redskins fired back and always kept the Saints at arm’s length.
BetOnline Betting Lines (accepts all USA clients):
-115 Saints -2.5pts; -105 Panthers +2.5pts
Bovada (all US except Maryland, Utah, NY, Washington):
-105 Saints -3pts; -115 Panthers +3pts
Bet365 (for UK & all non-USA residents):
10/11 Saints -2.5pts; 10/11 Panthers +2.5pts
Despite losing the game, nothing the Redskins did was able to effectively neutralize Brees for the game. With a running game that is barely used, it would seem teams would figure out how to get to Brees. So far, no matter what the defense, that hasn’t been the case the past few years. With his start to 2012, it looks like once again, Brees will find a way to dismantle and pick apart the opposing defense.
Can Brees Outscore What the Saints Defense Will Inevitably Give Up?
For as skilled as Brees has been the past few years and for as many defenses he has been able to dismantle, there is one defense that Brees just hasn’t been able to master. There is one defense that he has not always been able to outscore. The problem is, this defense is the defense that is supposed to have Brees’ back.
As good as Brees is, the Saints defense really is that bad. In four losses last year including a playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Saints defense gave up 42, 26, 31 and 36 points. In four additional wins, the Saints defense gave up 33, 27, 23 and 28 points. Only thrice on the season did the team give up less than 13 points.
In three of the Saints four losses, Brees passed for 462, 419, 383 and 269 yards. He was absolutely spectacular all season long, helping the Saints to seven wins in which they scored 40+ points including a blowout of the Indianapolis Colts that finished with a score of 62-7.
Unfortunately for the Saints, even Brees couldn’t overcome the defensive performance from their second round playoff loss to the Niners. He led the offense with four touchdowns and 462 passing yards but the defense gave up 36 points and allowed 49ers QB Alex Smith to pass for 299 yards and throw three touchdowns.
Although this is only week two, the Panthers offense led by Cam Newton and WR Steve Smith will certainly not be an easy task for a struggling Saints defense that gave up 40 points in its 2012 debut.
Also, with Jonathan Vilma on the PUP for at least six weeks, there is no reason to think the Saints defense will be any better this season than it was in 2011.
Who Will Win the Shootout: Drew Brees or Cam Newton?
We’ve already talked about how much of a powerhouse the veteran Brees is in the air but have yet to mention the more than capable passing ability of the signal caller going opposite of him on Sunday, Cam Newton.
Newton, who was the first overall draft pick from 2011, was expected to dominate the league with his legs. The Heisman Trophy winner set records at Auburn for rushing yards and touchdowns as he came close to leading his team to the NCAA National Championship.
What a lot of people didn’t expect from Newton was that he would be able to pass the ball with such accuracy. With pro bowl and incredibly quick WR Steve Smith catching passes, Newton blazed to win the NFL Rookie of the Year honor. He finished the 2011 season with 21 passing touchdowns in over 4,000 yards in the air and added another 14 touchdowns on 700+ yards rushing. Had it not been for Brees and Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers having the blockbuster seasons they did, Newton could very well have won the MVP.
Having led his team to their best finish in some time, Newton established himself as one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. With a great arm and even better legs, many likened him to a young Mike Vick, who when with the Atlanta Falcons in his younger days, was really able to dominate both in throwing and rushing the ball.
Against a not-so-great Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, Newton opened the 2012 season just barely eclipsing the 300-yard mark in passing yards. He threw for a touchdown but also threw two picks. In addition, he only managed four yards on the ground in five attempts.
Newton wasn’t at his best but against the Saints defense, he could be primed to have a good day. That said, the Panthers defense isn’t exactly perfect either and as a result, Brees could be in for a monster day as well.
Make no mistake, this will be a shootout. Both teams have some serious ability on offense and both teams also don’t have the defenses to stop these offensive attacks. Figuring out who wins then will likely come down to which QB has the better day, Brees or Newton?
Saints at Panthers Betting Pick & Prediction
On the road, the Saints are three point favorites according to most sportsbooks’ betting lines. For my pick, I expect the Saints to beat their divisional rivals and the spread. Ultimately, Drew Brees is a better quarterback and I think he will feel the urgency to avoid a 0-2 season more than Newton. Expect him to have a monster day and to lead the Saints to more than a field goal margin of victory.
- Bet on the Saints -2.5 points @ odds of -115 with BetOnline Sportsbook (all Americans can join) or Saints -3pts @ -105 with Bovada (All USA residents except Maryland, NY, Utah & Washington states).