PFF Preview: Saints @ Panthers, Week 9
The 3-4 New Orleans Saints travel to the Bank of America Stadium, to face the 3-4 Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football. The winner will the lead in the NFC South, the loser will fall even further behind in the race for a Wild Card spot in the NFC.
The success of the Saints’ rushing attack was a crucial component of their Week 8 victory over the Green Bay Packers. It provided Drew Brees with the platform to complete eight of nine passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns, for a perfect 158.3 NFL QB rating on Play Action Passes. Mark Ingram led all running backs with 10 missed tackles and an impressive 196.7 Elusive Rating in Week 8; while Jahri Evans +8.1 run blocking grade is fifth-best among guards for the season. Facing them is a Panthers defense that has allowed a league-worst 5.2 yards per rushing attempt, so expect the Saints to lean on the run once again.
However, while the Panthers’ defense as a whole has struggled to stop the run, defensive tackles Kawann Short (+8.3) and Star Lotulelei (+4.3) have graded well in run defense; they need be at their best this week. The key for the Panthers is to get Cam Newton firing again. Even after consecutive negative scores, Newton’s +10.2 overall grade is ninth-best among quarterbacks; and while some of that grade comes from his success on the ground (+2.7 as a rusher), his +7.2 passing grade is 10th in the NFL. The Saints’ starting secondary of Keenan Lewis (-4.3), Corey White (-8.5), Kenny Vaccaro (-8.2) and Rafael Bush (-2.8) all grading negatively in coverage, there will be opportunities for Newton.
Here are three more notable numbers for each side:
New Orleans Saints
Terron Armstead – Armstead has allowed one sack, two hits and 13 total pressures for a 96.2 Pass Blocking Efficiency grade, second-best among left tackles from the 2013 draft and a Top-20 figure among all tackles this season.
David Hawthorne – Credited with 20 tackles and 15 stops on 107 snaps in run defense, Hawthorne’s 14.0 Run Stop Percentage ranks fourth among 4-3 outside linebackers..
Junior Galette – With four sacks, six QB hits and 26 total pressures, Galette’s 10.1 Pass Rushing Productivity score is 11th-best among defensive ends, and leads the NFC South.
Kelvin Benjamin – With 38 receptions for 571 yards and five touchdowns, Benjamin’s 106.6 Wide Receiver Rating leads all rookie receivers.
Greg Olsen – Olsen’s +7.1 grade as a receiver is third-best among all tight ends, while his 1.98 Yards per Route Run ranks fifth among starters.
Charles Johnson – Johnson got off to a slow start to 2014, but three sacks and two positive pass rushing grades in his last four games show that he is finding form. His 8.5 PRP score is third-best among defensive ends in the NFC South.
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