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New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: Key players, top storylines, odds and prediction

The Carolina Panthers are set to host the New Orleans Saints in the first of a Monday Night Football doubleheader to conclude Week 2 of the NFL season.

New Orleans took out the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, winning Derek Carr’s debut with the team. Meanwhile, rookie No. 1 pick Bryce Young was unable to win his debut as the Panthers fell to the division-rival Atlanta Falcons.

For the home team, it’s all about getting more production on offense. As for the Saints, they’re looking to move to 2-0 for the first time since all the way back in 2013. Below, we preview this game with key players to watch, top storylines, betting odds and a final prediction.

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New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: Kickoff time, TV information and odds

  • Date: Monday, September 18, 2023
  • Time: 7:15 PM ET
  • Television: ESPN/ESPN2
  • Point spread: Saints (-3.0)

Related: Ranking Derek Carr among the NFL’s 32 starting quarterbacks

Top New Orleans Saints players to watch

new orleans saints at carolina panthers: derek carr
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Here, we look at two Saints players to watch as the team looks to move to 2-0 on the season.

Derek Carr, quarterback

Carr was pretty good in his Saints debut last week, completing 70% of his passes for north of 300 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Unfortunately for the Saints, it did not translate to touchdowns with kicker Blake Grupe accounting for three field goals in a narrow 16-15 win over the Tennessee Titans.

The Saints’ three trips into the red led to just one touchdown and two field goals. For a New Orleans team that’s not as talented as previous iterations, it must get more out of these situations. The onus is on Carr to do just that Monday night.

Cameron Jordan, EDGE

The Saints had three sacks of Ryan Tannehill last week with Carl Granderson accounting for 1.5 of them. Cameron Jordan put up a half of sack. He now has a plus-level matchup against Panthers right tackle Taylor Moton who Carolina is expecting to fortify an otherwise questionable offensive line.

If Jordan is able to consistently pressure Bryce Young, it will lead to more struggles on the part of the Panthers’ offense. It’s a major key in this one.

Related: NFL Week 2 power rankings

Top Carolina Panthers players to watch

new orleans saints at carolina panthers
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Young, quarterback

Speaking of Young, the youngster threw for just 146 yards on 38 attempts in his NFL regular season debut last week. He was hit eight times and sacked a total of two times. For new head coach Frank Reich and Co., the goal was to have Young deliver the ball quickly and avoid getting hit. It was a major storyline during the preseason.

Even then, the Panthers have to open it up somewhat with Young moving forward. Relying on screens, quick outs and play-action passes is not going to help him improve as a quarterback. Set to make his home debut Monday night, it will be interesting to see how the Panthers game plan for Young.

Ikem Ekwonu, offensive tackle

The No. 6 overall pick of Carolina in the 2022 NFL Draft, Ekwonu was a disaster class in pass protection during the preseason. He did not perform much better in Week 1 with the youngster allowing a sack and four pressures of Young.

Needless to say, the left tackle must provide Young more consistent protection moving forward if the Panthers want their rookie signal caller to succeed. Set to go up against the aforementioned Granderson Monday night, this is going to be a major key.

Related: 2023 NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

Top New Orleans Saints storyline

NFL: Preseason-Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Thomas’ return from injury was a major storyline last week. After playing in just 10 games since the end of the 2019 season, Thomas returned to catch 5-of-8 targetrs for 61 yards last week. He teamed up with Chris Olave to form an elite duo for Carr in the opener.

Thomas will now be tasked with going up against Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson in this one. The veteran cornerback yielded a 76% completion last season in coverage. Should Thomas continue to excel in this one, there’s no reason to believe that New Orleans won’t come out on top.

Top Carolina Panthers storyline

NFL: Preseason-Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Simply put, Carolina needs more production from its wide receivers come Monday night. Laviska Shenault Jr., Terrace Marshall Jr., Jonathan Mingo and Adam Thielen combined to catch a mere 8-of-15 targets from Young for 68 yards against a questionable Falcons defense last week.

Going up against a much stronger unit Monday night, the onus is on this group to provide Young with some open windows to throw through. Sure, Young struggled last week. The offensive line wasn’t great either. However, the youngster’s receivers didn’t do him any favors.

  • Prediction: New Orleans Saints 24, Carolina Panthers 19

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