Let's dispense with my "stat that really bothers me" up front: with Jake Delhomme under center, the Carolina Panthers have twice lost back-to-back games in which they lost that first game by more than 14 points. I said once on the radio show, but I missed that other game. Sorry. Both happened during the 2004 season, during their six-game losing streak. And after last week's 27-3 tub-thumping at the hands of division rival Tampa Bay, Saints fans better believe the Panthers will be out to stick it to our team. They've got pride on the line and a possible shot at first place in the division.
For the Saints, a victory puts us at 4-3, with a pair of wins over division opponents. A loss keeps us under .500 heading into our "home game" in London against the suddenly rejuvenated Chargers. Fan-fucking-tastic.
Total Offense: Saints - 412.2 ypg (2nd); Panthers - 322 ypg (16th)
Pass Offense: Saints - 324.7 ypg (1st); Panthers - 212.8 ypg (14th)
Rush Offense: Saints - 525 ypg (23rd); Panthers - 655 ypg (14th)
Points Per Game: Saints - 28.7 ppg (4th); Panthers - 19.5 ppg (23rd)
Total Defense: Saints - 330.7 ypg (19th); Panthers - 264.5 ypg (3rd)
Pass Defense: Saints - 227.3 ypg (21st); Panthers - 158.8 ypg (2nd)
Rush Defense: Saints - 103.3 ypg (14th); Panthers - 105.7 ypg (15th)
Based on the numbers, I would say the way to beating the Panthers on their own field is to: a) Find a way to run the ball on them, which means using more of Deuce; and b) keeping their own two-headed running attack in check.
Obviously, if Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey and David Patten are playing, that will make an already dangerous offense even more potent, splitting coverage up, opening things up for the ground game.
Here's what scares the hell out of me: seeing Jason David line up in coverage against Mushin Muhammad. Hey, Mush had a pretty damn good game against the Falcons in week 4 (8 catches, 147 yards, 1 touchdown), so the Saints better not rely on one-on-one coverage here.
Prediction: Saints 27, Panthers 20
Deuce and Reggie combine for more than 150 rushing yards; Colston starts, with Shockey and Patten seeing limited action; Drew Brees passes for two touchdowns and an INT; Melhalff kicks two field goals.