On paper, both teams are so evenly matched you may wonder why Vegas odds favor the Saints by 7 points on the Panthers' homefield. The Saints are 2nd in Total Offense in the NFL; the Panthers 3rd. On Defense, the Panthers are 14th, the Saints 15th.
These stats explain why the Saints are 3-1 & the Panthers are 1-3. If not, try game film.
Scoring. Despite the record-setting numbers $cam Newton's put up, the Panthers can't convert points. The Panthers are 17th in Total Points & blew 2nd half leads over the Packers & Cardinals. The Saints have come from behind for Dubyas twice this season & are 5th overall in Total Points in the NFL. Although Drew Brees has only thrown for 24 more yds. than Cam Newton, the Saints' QB has thrown 5 more TDs, as well as explains the difference between "playmaking" & "stat-raking" abilities of the two QBs.
Special Teams. The Panthers have struggled on special teams this year--just ask Devin Hester. On Returns, the Panthers average 5.4 yds. on Punts (28th) & 21.8 yds. on Kicks (22nd.) By contrast, the Saints average 17.8 yds on PR's (4th) & 25.8 on KR's (11th). Coach Sean Payton made improving Special Teams a priority in the offseason & added RB Darren Sproles who leads the NFL in all-purpose yds (716.) The Panthers lack a return man worth naming in the same paragraph as Darren Sproles. Moving on...
Rushing Defense. Despite their Passing D ranked 6th overall, the Panthers' Rushing D is 31st in the NFL. Earlier this season, the Panthers lost "The Big Beast" MLB Jon Beason & OLB Thomas Davis for the year. The Saints' Rushing Offense is 10th with one of the NFL's deepest backfields including Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas & Darren Sproles. Likewise the Saints' Rushing Defense is 9th against a Panther ground game ranked 17th, powered by DeAngelo Williams, Jonathon Stewart & Cam Newton who one day soon hopes to also throw to himself.
Penalties. The Saints' Offense has coughed up the least yards due to Penalties in the NFL & is 27th in total Penalties. Penalties have cost the Panthers, who are 9th in yards & 5th overall in total Penalties. It's undetermined if the NFL 's installed a Blind Zebra Zoo at Bank of America Stadium like they have at Lambeaux.
Receivers. The Saints have them; the Panthers have Steve Smith. Give Cam Newton some more credit for Smith's resurrection. After 4 games, Smith's already 24 yds. short of matching his less-than-stellar entire '10 performance. He's the 2nd leading NFL Receiver. Saints TE Jimmy Graham is ranked 5th. Drew Brees has hit 10 targets on the field this season; Cam Newton's hit 8 but expects that to grow once he masters overthrowing himself.
In all fairness, what can be said about $cam Newton that he hasn't already said about himself. His record-setting start shut-up haters--like me--who said the "one-year NCAA wonder" would never overcome his 16 Wonderlic score & the massive paycut he took leaving Auburn to achieve in the NFL. Newton's proved he can read Defenses, react to pressure & do serious damage on the field. He's arguably one of the best athletes at his position, a big-play guy who can do it all on the field--& will. Why trust a ball carrier when you can hand the ball...to yourself? He's definitely not the next Vince Young. Michael Vick, that remains to be seen. $cam's a different style QB than Vick & only runs when he's got no other option. QBs lose the protection of safety rules when he leaves the pocket. While $cam's got 5" & 30 lbs. on Vick, remember even Roethlisberger gets hurt.
Prediction: The game will come down to playcalling. The mastermind of "Ambush" in SBXLIV Sean Payton vs. SB XX Shuffler Ron Rivera. Doesn't seem like a fair fight, does it? Saints beat Carolina 31-24. I'm QueenWhoDat & I sponsored this message. GEAUX SAINTS!!!