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Playoff Road Takes Carolina Back to NOLA

08 January, 2018, 03:40 | Author: Glenda Knight
  • Panthers running backs cut wrestling promo for Saints playoff

That's the scenario the New Orleans Saints (11-5) face this Sunday as they host the Carolina Panthers (11-5) in an NFC wild-card matchup. The offense still functions nearly entirely on the boom-or-bust proposition of Cam Newton's bulldozer scrambling and scattershot arm, and the defense remains a disciplined and formidable unit with mainstay linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis thriving in a Swiss Army Knife capacity while ends Mario Addison and Julius Peppers chase down and torment quarterbacks. So he made a decision to whip out the broom in the locker room as his team celebrate the season sweep of their division rivals.

"Each game's different", said Payton, whose team took its first NFC South crown since 2011 by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker over Carolina.

Lost in how poorly the Panthers offense played at Atlanta was the absence of Jonathan Stewart, who sat out with back tightness. Newton has averaged 12.5 carries for 59.7 yards per game in Carolina's past four games.

The Panthers are 3-0 in wild card games and 5-2 in first-played games in postseason - wild card and divisional round.

Their third meeting - also the first playoff clash between them - is loaded with story lines. "We have to figure out what went well and improve on that and what went wrong and correct that".

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Meanwhile, Saints coach Sean Payton will be trying to change or disguise most everything his offense has done against the Panthers, which may be hard as those old plays accounted for 400 yards in the 31-21 win and 362 yards in the 34-13 victory.

Expect the Saints to apply plenty of pressure on Newton.

"There's familiarity", said Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who completed 25 of 34 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown in the 31-21 win and was 22 of 29 for 220 yards and three touchdowns in the 34-13 win.

"We've had guys who have been there before, so I feel like we should be ready and more prepared", Peppers said. They will run up against the Panthers defense, which is ranked No. 7 in the league. Carolina had also contained the Saints' dynamic rushing attack, holding running back tandem Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara to a combined 14 rushing yards by halftime. But at the same time, they may be doing some different things that we have to get ready for to go out and stop. For example, the Tennessee Titans allowed 59.7 yards per game to tight ends this season, which ranked seventh-worst in the NFL per Football Outsiders. Leading the pressure for New Orleans is defensive end Cameron Jordan.

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