A few notes about the Saints-Panthers game, followed by my prediction for Sunday:
-- I always enjoy watching New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees play. At six feet tall, he’s several inches shorter than ideal for an NFL quarterback, yet he’s one of the best ever at getting the ball where it needs to be and playing the chess game with defensive backs to help ensure his receivers get open.
Josh Norman, the Panthers’ rookie who is starting at cornerback, will undoubtedly be a Brees target Sunday and said he is looking forward to that challenge. He has been studying Brees closely on film, trying to understand what makes him so good.
“He’s a big pump faker,” Norman said of Brees. “He likes to show his shoulders one way and then come back to the other side. And for a DB, you cannot look into his eyes.”
Norman warmed to the topic, acting as if staring into Brees’ eyes was almost like staring into the eyes of a hypnotist.
“You can’t gaze into them,” he said. “Once you do that, he gets a touchdown for sure. He always knows where he wants to go – he just does the rest to toy with the DBs. The shoulders, the pump fake, the eyes – it’s all just to throw us out of the way.”
-- I found it very interesting that Panther coach Ron Rivera talked openly about his difference in philosophy with (currently suspended) New Orleans coach Sean Payton on Wednesday.
Rivera basically said he wouldn’t try to set NFL records given the same set of circumstances that the Saints had last January, when they tried to set several in a 45-17 rout of Carolina in the season’s last game. But Rivera also said that he didn’t have a problem with the Saints’ philosophy – that defenses are designed to stop people, and if they can’t, it’s their tough luck.
(bullet) OK, onto the prediction. The Panthers and Saints have traditionally been almost dead even. Although New Orleans has won the last four games in a row, the all-time series stands at 17 wins apiece. I think Carolina will certainly play better on offense than it did last week, but the Saints won’t be as bad on defense, either, and their offense still bulges with playmakers. Close, but….
New Orleans 28, Carolina 23.
And if you're looking for a reason to be optimistic, Panther fans, note that I missed last week's pick -- incorrectly choosing Carolina to beat Tampa Bay. So quite possibly I'll be wrong again.