Thoughts on the Saints-Panthers game Sunday (and a prediction):
-- A riddle to start: Try to figure out the next number in this sequence: 12, 3, 15, 3, 18, 7, 7. (Answer below)
-- Say what you want about John Fox, but the guy knows how to beat New Orleans. Fox is 11-5 in his head-coaching career against the Saints, and the Panthers have won seven of the past nine in the series. Fox’s “run-first” formula has seemed to work more regularly against New Orleans than against any other team.
-- DeAngelo Williams has absolutely creamed the Saints the last two times he has played them, rushing for 327 yards (163.5 per game). I think Williams will end up with the Panthers’ first 100-yard rushing effort of the season Sunday.
-- Drew Brees has thrown for 330 or more yards each of the past two times he has faced Carolina (he sat out the game at the end of last season). “I’m excited about this,” said Charles Godfrey, the Panther safety who leads the NFL with three interceptions. “We’re really going to get tested.” I wonder if Godfrey will still be that excited after the game.
-- Steve Smith has scored eight touchdowns in his past nine games against the Saints. The Saints take enough gambles defensively that No.89 should at least have some chances to make big plays Sunday. (And so should Brandon LaFell, who will be the subject of my Sunday column).
-- OK, back to the riddle at the top of this post. We won’t know the answer to that problem until 4 p.m. Sunday, after this game is over. Those relatively paltry numbers represent the number of points the Panthers have scored in their past seven games (including the 2010 preseason).
-- OK, a prediction. I'm 2-1 picking Panthers' games so far this season, missing on the Tampa Bay loss. Despite the Panthers’ recent success against the Saints, I don’t much like Jimmy Clausen’s chances on the road against Brees and a Saints team angry about losing last week. My prediction: New Orleans 27, Carolina 16.