All during the offseason, the members of the New Orleans Saints franchise have continued to say that this team has the talent and the will to win it all. But if they’re going to make it all the way, the Saints will have to figure out a way to stop the Carolina Panthers.
It wasn’t the Panthers who cut the postseason short for the Saints, but it was they who claimed the NFC South title and the first round bye that the Saints sorely needed. If the Saints can’t find a way to beat the Panthers on the road (while still putting together incredible home performances), they might as well forget winning another Super Bowl in 2014. For them, the road to the game’s greatest stage goes through Carolina.
The biggest advantage the Saints have over Carolina right now is their secondary. The Panthers’ already lackluster receiving corps took another big hit with the losses of Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, making the newly acquired free agents Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant the top two options. The Saints’ secondary has been going in the opposite direction, bringing in two stars in Jairus Byrd and Champ Bailey. On paper, this Saints’ defensive backfield will shut down the Panthers’ receivers.
Surprisingly enough, the biggest problem the Saints will have against Carolina is trying to score points. Drew Brees struggled in the game in Charlotte, though there were flashes of excitement from Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. The running game will have to be more efficient in 2014 in order to take some pressure off of Brees, but there are plenty of new weapons in the passing game to keep the Panthers off balance.
There are other teams that Saints fans should worry about (particularly in the postseason conversation), but none are more pressing than the Panthers. If they can’t stop Cam Newton and company, a Super Bowl win is out of the question.