A few pregame thoughts on New Orleans and Carolina, who play at 4:05 p.m. Sunday:
-- I love watching Saints receiver Marques Colston play. He’s not that fast, but he’s big and strong and just goes up and gets it over shorter defensive backs. He’s everything, in other words, that Dwayne Jarrett should be but hasn’t been for the Panthers. And Colston was a seventh-round pick; Jarrett a second-rounder.
-- The key for Carolina in this game: a lot of 10- to 12-play drives on offense. That means running the ball effectively, as usual. I think Carolina’s only chance at an upset is to gain 200 yards on the ground, which likely would translate into 35 minutes of possession time, which would give New Orleans a couple fewer shots than the Saints are used to in terms of scoring.
-- Don’t discount the confidence factor in this one with Jake Delhomme. He’s never lost a game as a starter in the Superdome. For a quarterback whose confidence has been on-and-off all season, that’s big. He’s comfortable there – the city has long been a home away from home for him, personally and professionally.
-- There isn’t a more fun offense to watch this season than the one that Drew Brees runs for the Saints. I mean, 39 points per game? That’s ridiculously good. The Charlotte Bobcats often don’t get 39 in a half.
-- The Saints are 7-0, but they aren’t going to go undefeated. I think they will ultimately lose 2-3 games this regular season. But despite their lack of previous success at home against Carolina, they are clearly the hotter team and their defense has finally stopped being so much of a liability. It will be entertaining, but ultimately: New Orleans 34, Carolina 24.
The stats: After starting 4-1 picking Panthers’ games this season, I’ve faltered the past two weeks on Panther predictions and now rest at a mediocre 4-3. Before the 2009 season began, I picked Carolina to go 7-9, and I’ll stick by that one until it’s no longer statistically possible.
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4 months ago