It truly cannot be understated just how enormous New Orleans’ win over Green Bay was last Sunday. The Saints were in danger of falling three games below .500, while the Packers had won four straight games, scoring 38+ points in three of them.
Nevertheless, the Saints (3-4) turned a 16-16 halftime tie into a 44-23 win and will face the Panthers (3-4-1) in Carolina on Thursday with first place in the NFC South up for grabs. Carolina, which has lost two straight, is coming off a heart-breaking 13-9 loss to Seattle.
“The Panthers are just so banged up,” Fox Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer said on Ferrall on the Bench. “That’s their problem. The running backs have been out the entire year. All of them. Obviously their pass rush is not the same as it has been. But the Saints needed that (win over Green Bay) in such a big way because for a while they lost their identity. They lost (Darren) Sproles obviously this offseason. Jimmy (Graham) was hurt. And it’s almost like The Patriot Way: We got Sean (Payton) and Drew (Brees) and they can kind of overcome anything and it doesn’t matter – and that hasn’t been the case.”
The Saints lost each of their first two games this year on a last-second field goal. They then lost by three touchdowns to Dallas before coughing up a two-score lead late in the fourth quarter against Detroit, ultimately losing 24-23. Three of their four losses have come by a combined six points.
So yeah, beating Green Bay convincingly and holding them without a touchdown in the final 57:57 of play? Huge.
“This game kind of showed them (they can overcome adversity and get a big win),” Glazer said. “And defensively, they had no leaders left over there. There’s no Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Roman Harper – they’re all gone. So they’re trying to figure out who they are on defense. Kenny Vaccaro is going to be a stud, but he’s just too young to be the man over there yet. But for them to go out and beat a team that’s that hot in the last couple of weeks, the Saints needed that. They needed it in a big way.”
Kickoff between the Saints and Panthers is Thursday at 8:25 p.m. ET.
The top game of the weekend, meanwhile, is Broncos (6-1) at Patriots (6-2) on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET. It figures to be another classic Peyton Manning/Tom Brady showdown, with the winner having an inside edge to home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
Glazer said he typically goes with Manning earlier in the season and Brady later in the season, mainly when it’s cold. This game, however, is hard to predict, as the Broncos actually have a star-studded defense – as opposed to approaching the season with the mindset of, “We got Peyton, we’re always winning, and our guys can just line up and pin their ears back.”
“It’s definitely a different Denver Broncos team because they load up on defense,” Glazer said. “Instead (of relying entirely on Manning), they went out and said, ‘No, we need a great defense. We need to go get a bunch of guys.’”