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. OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons signals to his team during their NFL game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 18, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints hands off to Mark Ingram #22 during the first quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 18, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
    Week 3 Tale Of The Tape: Atlanta Falcons At New Orleans Saints

    The NFC South rivals meet in the Big Easy with Brees and company looking for their first win.

  2. CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 19: Danny Trevathan #59 and Akiem Hicks #96 of the Chicago Bears
stop Ryan Mathews #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles
at Soldier Field on September 19, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Eagels defeated the Bears 29-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with teammates center Travis Frederick #72 and offensive guard La\'el Collins #71 after scoring a third quarter touchdown against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 18, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Week 3 Tale Of The Tape: Chicago Bears At Dallas Cowboys

    The Cowboys rookies have looked good the first two weeks, now they get the winless and injury plagued Bears at home.

  3. PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: Xavier Grimble #85 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates his touchdown with Ben Roethlisberger #7 in the first quarter during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on September 18, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 19:  Quarterback Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles hands off the football to Ryan Mathews #24 in the first half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 19, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Week 3 Tale Of The Tape: Pittsburgh Steelers At Philadelphia Eagles

    The two Pennsylvania teams have gotten off to 2-0 starts. Who will win the battle for interstate bragging rights?

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