The capper to this weekend’s round of NFL Wild Card games is the most intriguing and possibly the most entertaining of them all.
The AFC South Champion New Orleans Saints will face off against their division rivals the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedez-Benz Superdome late this afternoon.
This one has the makings of an offensive show with both teams having explosive players and in the case of the Saints, a slam dunk future Hall of Famer in the prolific Drew Brees who is nearing the end of his storied career and would like nothing better than to win one more Super Bowl ring before he goes out.
Brees has one thing that he often hasn’t in the past which vastly improves his chances – a running game.
The Saints feature the two-headed monster of power back Mark Ingram (1,124 yards, 12 touchdowns) and rookie Alvin Kamara (728 yards rushing, 826 yards receiving and a combined 14 touchdowns including a kickoff return) which despite Carolina’s stout defense, will be hard to contain.
The Saints defense is also better than in past years and it will take a hell of an effort by Carolina to win this one, especially inside a noisy dome filled with crazed fans.
The Panthers had the same 11-5 record as the Saints but lost both regular season games and blew a chance to steal the division away when New Orleans was upset by Tampa Bay last weekend.
As always with Carolina, it runs through quarterback Cam Newton who rebounded from last year’s dismal season but was plagued by bouts of inconsistency.
The Panthers are more of a threat on the ground than in the passing game and are led by veteran Johnathan Stewart with rookie playmaker Christian McCaffrey also being a receiving threat out of the backfield.
Carolina has serious issues at the receiver position which could spell trouble if this one develops into a shootout with not much more than stud tight end Greg Olson and still developing Devin Funchess.
This one is the Saints game to lose but it could be close.