Originally written on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 9/15/12

Another weekend, another chance for me to praise a franchise I could care less about if they were to remove one single player. That’s right, TSHQ, as you should know by now my Cam Newton love knows zero bounds. Since the first time I saw him dominate at Auburn I became a fan. Guy just does it all. After Week 1′s embarassing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Newton is going to be ready to feast on a weak Saints’ secondary. Which is good. But Drew Brees is no slouch. In fact, many argue he’s the best quarterback in the league. Those people, as passionate as they are, couldn’t be wronger. That’s right, wronger. So wrong a grammatical inaccuracy must be used. Nevertheless, Brees’ Saints are also coming off of a disappointing Week 1 performance and he will be just as ready to feast on a weak Panthers’ secondary. First one to 35 points wins tomorrow, folks. So if you were looking for an Alabama-LSU esque game, you will not find it in Carolina this Sunday.

What the Saints Must Do in Order to Win This Game

The Saints went 2-11 on third down against the Redskins last week. It’s tough to win any game when a team struggles that severely on third down, let alone score 32 points. Brees put up 339 yards in his 2012 debut along with three touchdown passes. Brees also threw two interceptions. If the Saints can protect the ball and convert closer to 40% of their third down conversions, they will be tough to stop. Brees will likely slice apart the Panthers secondary so as long as he doesn’t get careless and force a bad throw, he should be able to score at will. Like I said above, first one to 35 wins and that’s probably accurate. I can’t image this game being a low scoring affair with both of these defense being so inept. If either of these teams want to limit the other’s scoring chances, they should look to the ground game.

Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Mark Ingram need to be heavily involved tomorrow. Last Sunday, the Panthers’ defense allowed 95 yards to rookie running back Doug Martin. While Sproles is not a traditional running back by any definition, the Saints could get him plenty of touches by opening up the screen game. Thomas should get more than the four attempts he had against the Redskins since he is technically their feature back while Ingram can pound the rock in short distance scenarios. The name of the game Sunday is time of possession. Whichever team can control the clock will win this game and by keeping the ball on the ground the Saints could be doing themselves a favor by keeping their defense on the bench.

What the Panthers Must Do in Order to Win This Game

Time of possession remains pivotal. While Ron Rivera continues to try and invent an offense involving zero running game, he may have to be fired if he refuses to get Newton under center with DeAngelo Williams lined up in an “I” formation. Hell, line up in a pistol formation. Strong, weak, WHATEVER. RUN THE DAMN BALL, RIVERA! If he has Newton constantly dropping back like he has for the past 17 games of his career, he is going to lose. Again and again. The Panthers have a solid running game with Williams and Mike Tolbert. Rivera also expects Jonathan Stewart to make his ’12 debut against the Saints. I understand Newton is a tremendous player, but not every down needs to involve him. Alfred Morris made a name for himself against this Saints’ defense with 96 yards and two touchdowns in his debut. There is no reason to think that DeAngelo Williams can not run wild on the Saints and if the Panthers’ continue to neglect him they will continue to pay for it by racking up Ls in the loss column. Stewart could also shread this defense but for his first game there is no reason to give him a heavy workload right from the jump. Give Williams the bulk of the carries and keep the ball out of Brees’ hands. In this game, offense is the best defense. The longer the Saints’ offense is watching the game from the sidelines, the easier it will be for Carolina to win their home opener. I expect this game to be a shootout so the Panthers will be doing themselves a massive favor by taking my advice. Run. The. Damn. Ball.

Final Prediction

42-35 Carolina. I can’t say first to 35 wins and then set the final score at 35, just not in my nature.My man Captain Munnerlyn will come up with a big interception in the fourth quarter and run it back to the house to put the Panthers ahead. Ron Rivera will save his job (in my eyes at least) by handing the ball to Williams 20 times. Williams will thank Rivera by racking up over 100 yards and finding the endzone once. Another time, Williams will break off a 30 yard rush to the three yard line when touchdown vulture Mike Tolbert will scavange a goal line score. Brees will play well, but the INT by Munnerlyn will ultimately cost him the game and the Bountygate Saints will start off the season 0-2.


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