Week two of the NFL season wraps up tonight, but instead of one game to close out the week, tonight we’re getting two. One part of the Monday Night Football doubleheader will be an NFC South battle between the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers. We’ll preview this game that features a veteran QB taking on a rookie signal caller before going over which side I’ll be backing.
Bryce Young’s first true NFL game and road start did not go how the Panthers' faithful would have hoped. In Carolina’s 24-10 loss to the Falcons, Young finished with 146 yards and a touchdown, but he would also throw two interceptions. Carolina outgained Atlanta both on the ground and through the air, but the Panthers' three turnovers led to strong field position for Atlanta, and the Falcons managed to capitalize with points all three times.
Carolina failed in three areas in week one: penalties, turnovers, and red zone play. With three turnovers and nine penalties, the Panthers got in their own way and made their rookie quarterbacks job much harder. Even when they did have an opportunity to score, Carolina failed to cash in, giving them a 50% red zone efficiency on two attempts, while Atlanta went three for three in the red zone.
Struggles with converting on scoring opportunities and ball security can be common for teams run by a rookie quarterback, no matter how good they are. Still, it could be a long night if those issues are as prevalent again tonight against the Saints. In New Orleans’ 16-15 week one win over the Titans, they finished with a defensive EPA of 8.64 and picked up three interceptions. On top of the turnovers, New Orleans would also force the Titans to go 0-3 on red-zone opportunities.
While the Titans' offense may not be the most high-powered machine, the Saints' secondary played well above their preseason ranking of 19th by PFF. Offensively, Derek Carr ended the day with 305 yards and a touchdown, but the Saints' inability to establish a run game made their win much closer than it needed to be. New Orleans would pick up just 69 rush yards on 27 attempts, which gave them an EPA on rush plays of (-6.81).
The Saints are currently listed as (-3) point favorites on the road tonight, and I’ll be backing them for my play. It’s best not to overreact to week one, but after watching them against the Falcons, the Panthers don’t look like a team that knows how to win yet, while the Saints were able to come up big when it mattered against Tennessee.
New Orleans’ passing game finished with an EPA of 9 in week one, and now they take on a Panthers secondary that is without Jaycee Horn and had a preseason ranking of 21 from PFF. They were not challenged last week in the way they will be tonight through the air, since Atlanta had an average depth of target of 3.5 yards against the Panthers' secondary, while the Saints' average depth of target was 11.5 in week one, so they will push the ball downfield.
Carolina allowed Bryce Young to be pressured 14 times last week, and now they take on a Saints defense that picked up three sacks in week one and could be in the rookie quarterbacks' face quickly tonight. Carolina ran the ball 32 times against Atlanta, but with their offensive line, it will be difficult to establish any sort of run game tonight against a Saints run defense that finished with an EPA per rush play of 1.15.
New Orleans Saints (-3)