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NFC South Lead Awaits As Panthers Visit Saints

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By Danny Cox

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 08:   Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws a pass against the Atlanta Falcons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 8, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints (Credit, Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

When the NFL schedule was released earlier in the year, no one could have expected that the first – and late – match-up between the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints would be for the lead in the NFC South. Yet, here it is … the middle of December and NFC South supremacy is on the line.

The Saints are a dangerous team as always and it is blatantly evident they have trouble playing in the cold (New York, New England, Seattle), but this game will be in the cozy confines of the Superdome. That happens to be a place where the Saints are undefeated.

A very loud place where the Saints are undefeated.

The sixth-ranked passing defense of the Panthers will truly be tested by Drew Brees and his wide array of weapons such as Marques Colston, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, and especially Jimmy Graham.

Graham and Colston have the size of a tight end, but the speed, agility and hands of any of the best wide receivers to play the game. It’s hard to stick to all of the weapons that the Saints have, but the Panthers have the ability and the talent in the secondary to stay with them.

Coming out of the backfield, the Saints have a running game that very much mirrors that of the Panthers as it happens by committee. Mark Ingram is the bruiser. Pierre Thomas is agile and shifty and can get the hard yards. Darren Sproles is quick, nimble, and too small to even see sometimes.

The Saints don’t always get a lot of yards on the ground but the ability is there.

Defensively, the Saints have one of the best units in the league under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The Seattle game is one of the lone exceptions this season because the Saints were just exposed. Cam Newton needs to try and follow the lead of Russell Wilson and do the same.

Newton will need to keep an eye on the defensive line of the Saints that has up-and-comer Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks who have been pressuring quarterbacks all season. There are weaknesses though, and if Newton can expose them, then he could get good production out of the Panthers offense.

The Saints are somewhat weak in the secondary even though they are ranked third in the league.

Speedy receivers such as Brandon LaFell and Steve Smith can use their quickness and double moves to get past cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Corey White and get behind the safeties.

The Panthers can take over sole possession of first place in the NFC South by taking down the Saints and keeping their win streak alive. If not, there will be another chance in two weeks when the Saints visit Carolina, but a sweep over New Orleans is better than one victory.

For more Carolina Panthers news and updates, visit Carolina Panthers Central.

Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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