The New Orleans Saints are in relatively unfamiliar territory for the 2013 NFL season. Not only are they coming off of just their third loss of the season this past week against the Seattle Seahawks, but they are coming off of a game where they were completely outplayed for four quarters, the first time that has happened to them all season.
In week 14, though, they are headed back home to the Superdome for a huge matchup with division rival, the Carolina Panthers, in a game that has division-winner implications. Coming up against one of the best defenses in the NFL in the Panthers, the Saints will clearly be looking to rebound from a poor performance last week and will also be looking to prove that they are still the best in the NFC South.
What’s going to be huge for the Saints in this game is that they can exploit personnel matchups that are in their favor against the stingiest offense in the NFL in terms of points. One matchup advantage that they have in virtually every game that they play is with tight end Jimmy Graham.
Graham has 68 catches for 988 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season, even while dealing with a painful foot injury for much of the year. His unique blend of basketball-player-like size and crazy athleticism has made him one of the most reliable receiving options in the league.
When the Panthers faced off with the New England Patriots, the Pats got solid production from their stud tight end Rob Gronkowski as he caught five ball on seven targets for 59 yards and touchdown, as well as a no-call that could have been a touchdown to end the game. If I’m the Saints, I’m upping that number of targets and feeding Graham continuously.
I understand that Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly and his fellow linebacker core have been phenomenal this season, but that doesn’t mean that they can match up with a player of Graham’s caliber. There are a number of factors in this game and a number of ways that the Saints’ offense can be successful. However, I think getting Graham a ton of looks is their best chance to consistently move the ball on Carolina.