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Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons

by Sharon Thorsland

So the season opener didn’t exactly go as planned for the Panthers, who fell to the Falcons 24-10. They’ll get another chance to pick up a division win when they take on the Saints on Monday Night Football in their home opener. The Saints barely eked out a 16-15 win over the Titans last week but are loaded with talent on both sides of the football.

After a pair of lackluster seasons, the Saints are on to their third quarterback after bringing in former Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. He leads a potent passing attack that features a trio of outstanding receivers in All-Pro Michael Thomas and second year players Chis Olave and Rashid Shaheed.

Thomas appears to be back to form after being sidelined most of the past three seasons due to injury, and Shaheed is a deep threat who averaged nearly 18 yards a catch as a rookie. Olave led the Saints with over 1,000 receiving yards last season and picked up where he left off with 114 yards last week..They’ve also got some excellent tight ends in Juwan Johnson and All-Pro Jimmy Graham. They’ll be a huge test for the Panthers’ secondary that is down starter Jaycee Horn, but limited the Falcons to just 91 passing yards last week.

The good news is, All-Pro running back Alvin Kamara is suspended and will not play in this game. Instead it will be Jamaal Williams carrying the football, he rushed for 1,066 yards and a league-leading 17 touchdowns last season with the Lions. And don’t forget about Taysom Hill – the do-everything player accounted for nearly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, lining up at running back, receiver, quarterback and kick returner. “This is a well-balanced offense, they can run and can pass,” said Panther cornerback Donte Jackson.”These guys have play makers all over the field.”

The Saints also have plenty of play makers on defense, led by veteran defensive end Cam Jordan. The All-Pro shows no signs of slowing down in his 13th season and is the franchise sacks leader. Pro Bowler Demario Davis is one of the best middle linebackers in the league, and the secondary boasts elite talent in lock down cornerback Marshon Lattimore and safety Tyrann Mathieu. The Saints have had an excellent defense for years now, they ranked 5th in the league last season in total defense and have allowed 20 points or less for nine straight games. And they’ll no doubt be keying on Panthers rookie quarterback Bryce Young, who threw two picks last week

It’s only week two but this really is a huge game for the Panthers. It’s the home opener, on Monday Night Football, and it’s another division game. I don’t want to call this one a must-win so early in the season, CJ Henderson will. “We’re excited, it’s another week to prove ourselves as a team and as a unit on defense,” said the Panthers cornerback. “And it’s against a division opponent, so it’s a must-win for us.”

Panthers face Saints on MNF  was originally published on