TALE OF THE TAPE

Tale Of The Tape: Carolina Panthers At New Orleans Saints

Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
(credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Quarterback
Cam Newton has certainly stepped it up this year as he appears to have grown dramatically in maturity and confidence. Newton is a spectacular athlete and when he wants to run, there appears to be no stopping him. While his deep passing is solid and his arm is powerful, there are questions about his touch on short- and medium-range passes.
Winner Drew Brees has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL for years, and he is more than up to a challenge from a rising young star like Newton. While he may not be as athletic as the Panthers’ quarterback, he can get away from the pass rush and buy time with his feet. He is one of the most accurate passers and he excels on short- and medium-range passes.
Offense
Winner The Panthers want to be a diverse football team that can overpower opponents with the running game and hit big plays in the passing game. DeAngelo Williams (quadriceps) didn’t play against the Bucs but should be ready to play against the Saints. Steve Smith is one of the toughest and most competitive receivers, while Ted Ginn has game-breaking speed.
The Saints have struggled to put a consistent running attack on the field and Pierre Thomas is not likely to win the battle against Carolina’s hard-hitting defense. However, tight end Jimmy Graham is a gamebreaker and he is usually at his best in the biggest games. Marques Colston has been dependable and will make key third-down catches.
Defense
Winner The Panthers rank second in overall defense and head coach Ron Rivera is certain to come up with a new wrinkle that should challenge Brees. The Panthers are big hitters and nobody plays more consistently than Luke Kuechly, who leads the team with 102 tackles and also has three interceptions. The Panthers are hoping DE Charles Johnson (sprained knee) can return here. He leads the team with 10.0 sacks.
The fifth-ranked Saints are the most improved defensive team in the league as they have responded well to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton has taken the responsibility on his shoulders and he leads the Saints in tackles. Defensive end Cameron Jordan has speed coming around the corner and is a threat to sack Newton.
Special Teams
Winner The Panthers are an athletic and aggressive team and they don’t allow opponents to make big plays on special teams. Rivera is waiting for Ginn to break a long punt or kickoff return in a clutch game, and this certainly qualifies. Graham Gano has made 18-of-20 FG attempts.
Winner The Saints have not made big mistakes with their coverage teams. They stay in their lanes and don’t allow big returns. Garrett Hartley had a few misses early in the year but he appears to have straightened out his issues. Thomas Morstead is a solid directional punter.

The Winner Is

(credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Winner Carolina Panthers
3 out of 4

A big-time statement game here, and the Panthers have survived key games at San Francisco and at home against New England. Still, beating the Saints in the Superdome will be quite difficult and a major test for Rivera, Newton and Kuechly.
-Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor

MORE TALES OF THE TAPE

  1. INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 20:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball during the second half of the game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 27:  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets looks to throw a pass against the New England Patriots in the game at MetLife Stadium on November 27, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Justin Heiman/Getty Images)
    Week 13 Tale Of The Tape: Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets

    The Colts are still alive for the playoffs while the Jets are just playing out the string.

  2. OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers looks to pass against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game on November 27, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks runs for several yards on the quarterback keeper during the second quarter of an NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 27, 2016 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
    Week 13 Tale Of The Tape: Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks

    The Panthers travel to Seattle for a date with the Seahawks.

  3. TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks for a receiver during the third quarter of an NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks on November 27, 2016 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 13:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers passes the ball during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Qualcomm Stadium on November 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
    Week 13 Tale Of The Tape: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers

    The Bucs are in second place in the NFC South and look to keep pace with the Falcons as they match-up with a tough Chargers team.

See All Tales of the Tape

More From CBS San Francisco

Get The New CBS SF Bay Area Local App
Got Our Weather App?
Listen to Radio.com Anywhere, Anytime!

Listen Live