Saints will roll over Panthers

IMG_1088.JPGI’ll get this out the way early in the column — the Saints will wallop the Panthers.

Yes, Thursday’s game is on the road where the Saints are 0-4 this season. But Sunday night’s dominating victory over the Packers shows the Saints might have found something that had been missing through the first six games.

Quarterback Drew Brees rediscovered the deep ball with the help of speedy rookie wideout Brandin Cooks. He now has 40 catches for 372 yards and two touchdowns. That’s obviously a very positive development.

Running back Mark Ingram, known at times on Twitter by the hashtag #AngryIngram, is running with ferocious authority. He is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and rolling over defenders like a bowling ball wrecking pins.

And don’t forget about the return of fullback Erik Lorig. The Saints signed the stout run blocker for a reason in the offseason.

He made a difference Sunday, blowing people off the line of scrimmage and helping spring Ingram on numerous runs. His return helps the offense in ways that don’t always show up on the stat sheet.

Defensively, the Saints have played their best two games in the past two games. Minus a late collapse against Detroit that cost the team a win, Rob Ryan’s bunch is playing with swagger again and, yes, creating turnovers.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has historically given the Saints problems and that will likely be the case again, but the Saints D will have opportunities to make plays against him.

Ingram should be able to take advantage of the Panthers porous run defense, which gives up 135 yards per game. Brees, who probably knows the tendencies of former Saints safety Roman Harper better than anyone in the league, will likely test him with the deep ball early and often. The Panthers offense and defense are 24th and 21st in the league respectively.

The Saints defense, like it did against the Packers, must limit big plays and tighten up in the red zone.

With five of the Saints final eight games at home in the Dome, hitting the 4-4 mark on Thursday is critical. This game is for first place in the underwhelming NFC South and I think the Saints will get it done.

Book it — Saints 34, Panthers 24.

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