Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Saints quarterback Drew Brees embrace before a game in Charlotte, N.C. on September 24, 2017. This game will likely go down to the wire, but the Falcons will emerge with a 23-20 win. He is eligible for free agency after this season and, although it is highly unlikely he leaves the Saints for another franchise, there are no guarantees he will get back to this point, with a team that's this good around him and such a viable opportunity to win another championship. If not for three interceptions - one by linebacker Craig Robertson and two by rookie safety Marcus Williams, the Saints might have struggled just to keep it close.
Somehow, the Saints accomplished this feat in impressive fashion, beating the Panthers 34-13 behind an explosive offense and a clamping defense.
The New Orleans Saints are in the playoffs for the first time since 2013, playing their first home playoff game since 2011. The two teams are almost tied in scoring defense, as the Panthers have surrendered a negligible one more point this season than New Orleans. They've played like a 6.4-9.6 team this year according to PWE and have been outscored by 57 points this season, an average of 3.6 points per game.
However, since the Week 13 matchup with the Saints, Carolina has won three of four games and has tallied 10 takeaways, tied for third best in the National Football League in that span. This game could get very ugly, and a shutout isn't completely out of the question. Crawley was inactive the first two games, a seemingly inexplicable coaching decision based on the second-year cornerback's potential and how poorly the secondary played the first two games. In 13 games, Lattimore has intercepted a team-high five passes and has yet to give up a touchdown to a receiver in coverage. The OVER is 8-0 in New Orleans' last eight playoff home games. Accumulating 60 yards and two rushing scores, his 97 yards were just a third of the ground production achieved by the Saints against Carolina. "But the beauty of this is we get another shot, and this time it really means something".
"We have to go a better job of capitalizing on turnovers", Kalil said.
"I approach every game the same way, you know?" he said. "And you just needed the validation of going out there and getting the W as a result".
To his considerable credit, longtime head coach Ron Rivera was largely able to navigate through the controversy, leading the team to three victories in their final four games before dropping a meaningless Week 17 contest to Atlanta. His 536 passing attempts were his fewest in a season since 2009 and his fewest in a season in which he played all 16 games since 2005.