TALE OF THE TAPE

Week 17: Carolina Panthers At New Orleans Saints

Panthers
Saints
Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 23: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks for an open receiver against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Quarterback
Cam Newton continues his late-season surge. The Panthers played dreadful football in the first half of the season, but they have been on their game in the second half. Newton has played with confidence and athleticism and has led the Panthers to four wins in their last five games. Newton has an 18-10 TD-interception ratio.
Winner Drew Brees won’t be going to the playoffs this season, but he led the Saints to a victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16. Brees and the Saints are certainly disappointed that there won’t be any playoffs, but they have not quite. Brees threw for 446 yards and three TDs vs. the Cowboys and he has thrown 36 TD passes this season.
Offense
The Panthers may have performed poorly in the first half of the season, but they are much-improved on the offensive end. Wide receiver Steve Smith has caught 70 passes for 1,101 yards and he is still one of the toughest receivers in the league. Tight end Greg Olsen can make the tough catches to keep drives alive on third downs.
Winner Wide receiver Marques Colston is one of the most sure-handed receivers in the league. He has caught 78 passes for 1,102 yards and 10 TDs. Jimmy Graham is a hybrid tight end who can make tough catches over the middle and stretch the field on deep patterns. Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas give the Saints a competent ground game.
Defense
Winner The Panthers have the talent to become a dominant defensive team next season. They rank 10th overall on defense and 10th against the pass. Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy are both explosive pass rushers. The Panthers know that rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly will anchor their defensive for the next five years.
Winner The Saints struggle with positioning and tackling on the defensive side of the ball, but they do play with effort. However, they struggle to stop opponents through the air. They rank 31st overall in defense and 31st against the pass. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton has a team-high 118 tackles.
Special Teams
The Panthers have struggled on special teams. Graham Gano has done a decent job since being installed as the placekicker. Punter Brad Nortman has a net average of 35.7 yards per kick.
Winner The Saints have had a decent season in their special teams coverage. Punter Thomas Morstead has had a very impressive season. He is averaging 50.5 yards per punt and he has a net average of 44.4 yards per attempt. Placekicker Garrett Hartley has made 17-of-21 field goal attempts.

The Winner Is

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 23: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks for an open receiver against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Winner Saints
4 out of 4

The Saints have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league, but they have never mailed it in. They continue to play hard and they are capable of putting on an explosive offensive show every time they take the field. The Panthers are rolling and will be tough to beat in the season finale.

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