PFF Preview: Panthers @ Saints, Week 14
In a rematch that pairs two contenders for the NFC South title, the Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) travel to the Superdome to face the New Orleans Saints (5-7). Both playoff teams a year ago, the Saints and Panthers have struggled in 2014 but still have a home playoff berth in sight. The Saints are coming off of an impressive road victory over Pittsburgh while the Panthers haven’t won since Week 5 against Chicago.
In the Saints’ Week 9 victory, no other player was more dominant than defensive end Junior Galette. He recorded two sacks, a hit, and seven hurries to go along with three stops that resulted in a monstrous +8.1, by far the best game of his career. He also had a forced fumble that was recovered at the 3-yard line. Before that game, Galette’s PFF grade was +2.8 in 430 snaps and since that game it has been +7.4 in 243 snaps. Clearly he used that game to springboard his season to a different level. He’s had his 12.6 Pass Rushing Productivity rank fourth-best since Week 9. It is evident that Galette wasn’t a one-hit wonder and his game has risen.
Galette did all of his damage against left tackle David Foucault and unfortunately for him, it was the last game Foucault has played in. Galette is slated to face Byron Bell who himself has struggled this year grading at -29.4 in 746 snaps. This could spell doom for the Panthers as Bell was much stronger last year at right tackle (-9.6). With a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 91.7 (last among 78 offensive tackles), giving up 45 total pressures including eight sacks, the Panthers would be best to send help his way. All hasn’t been bad for Bell this year, though, as he has posted three games graded above +1.1, two of them coming against stout defensive lines in the Bengals (+1.9) and Buccaneers (+1.3). When facing Jared Allen, Bell gave up just two hurries.
Galette’s performance in the first game was a major factor and it could very well be in the rematch unless Byron Bell is able to regain his fine form from a few games this season.
Three things to watch for:
Greg Olsen – An underrated tight end, Olsen is a solid pass catcher (+9.4) ranking fourth in Yards Per Route Run at 1.88.
Thomas Davis – The “other linebacker” on the Panthers is no slouch himself grading at +12.9, third in the NFL among 4-3 OLBs. He tops all 4-3 OLBs in coverage at +9.0 giving up just 0.77 Yards Per Cover Snap.
Kawann Short – Short started the season incredibly hot (+16.2, first in the NFL through Week 6) but has cooled of late (-0.9, 41st in NFL since).
New Orleans Saints
Terron Armstead – The Saints’ left tackle does a formidable job (+6.6) of protecting Drew Brees, giving up just three sacks and 18 hurries, good for a PBE of 95.9 on the season.
Drew Brees – Brees has done his job of keeping the Saints in playoff contention. Since Week 7, no quarterback has been better as his +27.5 grade tops Brady and Rodgers by more than half a dozen points.
Keenan Lewis – Lewis had one of his better games this year in Week 9 against the Panthers grading at +2.2 with two pass defenses. He leads the team with nine passes defensed.
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