Following a disappointing 24-10 loss to the Falcons in week one, the Panthers are presented with another divisional matchup. This time they’ll be facing off against the New Orleans Saints, who started 1-0 with a win over the Titans. Not only that, but it’s a primetime game in Carolina. Bryce Young and company will have the world watching as they partake in one of two Monday Night Football showcases to close out the week. Before the sun sets and the lights come on, let’s look over some of the biggest storylines approaching the Panthers and Saints week two showdown.
Week one wasn’t kind to the Panthers, as they already lost two key pieces to the injured reserve (IR). The most notable of which is a hamstring injury for Jaycee Horn, the team’s main cornerback. Horn had a major injury in each of his first two NFL seasons, and the trend quickly repeated this year. He was placed on the IR, and could potentially need surgery before returning to the field.
This will make Donte Jackson the team’s primary cornerback, with C.J. Henderson lining up alongside him. It’ll be a good opportunity for Henderson to prove himself, as he hasn’t had the easiest run in Carolina. A good game as a starter could work wonders for his confidence.
As for the other major injury, Brady Christensen became the second starting guard on the IR after a biceps injury. Austin Corbett began the season on the IR, meaning Carolina is without both of their starting guards. Rookie Chandler Zavala already stepped in at right guard, but the hole as left guard will need to be filled. Cade Mays and Nash Jensen will be the most likely options to fill out the depleted offensive line. It’s a frustrating start, as the Panthers lose key pieces on both sides of the ball.
Stopping the Saints Offense
In order to grab a huge Monday Night Football win, Carolina will have to stop the Saints’ offense. They’re led by quarterback Derek Carr, who is in his first season away from the Raiders. He has a dynamic pairing at wide receiver in second-year man Chris Olave, as well as veteran Michael Thomas. The Ohio State duo is joined by Rashid Shaheed, who proved his worth with two touchdowns in the team’s week one win. New Orleans will also turn to Jamaal Williams in the absence of Alvin Kamara, who is serving a suspension.
It isn’t the most dynamic offense the Panthers will face all season, but it’s full of proven talent. The banged-up Carolina secondary will have to find a way to minimize the damage caused by this receiver room in order to win. Olave is capable of catching big passes downfield, while Thomas is known for consistency on short gains. Shaheed can also benefit through a favorable matchup, with starting corners focusing on the main receiver duo.
NFC South Hopes
Despite it only being week two, a loss in Carolina on Monday night could be detrimental to the Panthers’ playoff hopes. Not only would it be a critical divisional loss, but it would move New Orleans to 2-0, and Carolina to 0-2. To make matters worse, both of the other teams in the division are also off to 2-0 starts. The Falcons followed up the win over the Panthers with another against Green Bay, remaining unbeaten. Meanwhile, former Panther Baker Mayfield has led the Buccaneers to a perfect start with wins over the Vikings and Bears.
All this to say, a loss for the Panthers would put them two games behind every other team in the division. This would be far from ideal, especially this early in the season. For the sake of playoff dreams, a win is critical. Not only could Young make the front office look brilliant on national television, but they could call attention to the start of this new era for Panthers football.
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Featured image courtesy of the Carolina Panthers.
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