Control of first place in the NFC South will be up for grabs this weekend, as quarterback Drew Brees will lead the New Orleans Saints (10-4) into Charlotte for a key rematch with the Carolina Panthers (10-4).
In their previous meeting two weeks prior, the Cats stumbled down in the big easy, surrendering a season worst 31 points to the number seven ranked Saints defense. Carolina had their eight game winning streak and their momentum snapped along with it. Their quarterback, Cam Newton, was sacked five times, while failing to get the Panther offense into any sort of rhythm. They hope to turn the tides this week in what is arguably the most important game of the Panthers 2013 season. Fortunately for them, they will be hosting the Saints. With their recent struggles on the road, Carolina will certainly be looking to take advantage. Wide receiver Steve Smith is nursing a dislocated left middle finger, but is expected to play on Sunday. With Smith not at full health, look for Newton to rely on his second and third favorite targets, Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn through the air. DeAngelo Williams should be receiving more carries in the run game, with fellow running back Jonathan Stewart ruled out of Sunday’s game with a sore knee.
On the other side of the ball, the Saints find themselves in desperate need of a win and a season sweep of the Panthers to assure themselves a home game in January. After last week’s surprising debacle in St. Louis, it brings into question the Saints ability to withstand the pressure of winning on the road. Their offensive line was absolutely manhandled by the Rams front seven. Brees was pressured and sacked all day long, forcing him into committing several turnovers. Undoubtedly, this was one of his worst performances of his career. The Saints will need a quick start to squash any confidence the Panthers have playing with home field advantage. It will be a ‘winner take all week sixteen’ showdown, as the two clubs square off at Bank Of America Stadium.
NFC powers will collide on Sunday, as Cam Newton and Drew Brees lead their teams and continue to push for the playoffs. What’s at stake? An NFC South Division title and most likely a first round Bye.
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Sports-Kings Down and Distance Contributor Stephn Baldetti