The NFC South title seemed to be squarely in the hands of the New Orleans Saints following their win over the Carolina Panthers in the Superdome, but things have begun to get more interesting. The Panthers needed a win against the New York Jets to stay alive in the division championship race and hang on to the fifth playoff spot, and they did so by putting away the Jets 30-20.
On the other side, the Saints were upset on the road against the St. Louis Rams, with their dominant offense being surprising quiet on Sunday.
That leaves the Saints and the Panthers in same situation as they were last week — tied atop the NFC South standings and facing off for division supremacy and a possible first-round playoff bye. The big difference this time is that the Saints will be on the road at Carolina, far away from the riotous noise of the Superdome.
While the Saints have been flat-out unstoppable at home, they have been noticeably vulnerable on the road, losing at the Jets in Week 9 and also losing to the Rams 27-16 this week.
The Saints dominated the Panthers the last time they met, shredding the vaunted Panthers defense for 31 points at home. The Saints won’t have their home-field advantage this time however, which is a severe disadvantage for the Saints as they score 19.3 fewer points on the road. That stat should be great relief to the Panthers’ top-ranked scoring defense, who are still seething over being ripped up by Jimmy Graham.
Carolina’s offense should surely be able to generate more yards outside the cacophony of the Superdome, but the home-field advantage should serve the defense he most, with offense not being operate with the same fluidity as they have at home with the fans on their side. Either way, this is a prime time matchup that the Panthers never thought they’d see, but the Saints’ glaring weakness on the road has set up this pivotal matchup.