Sunday, Jan. 7th (4:40 PM): Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints
Our final Wildcard Weekend game features our only divisional match-up of the first-round. The Saints swept the season series, winning the first time in Carolina (34-13) and then the second time at home (31-21). The Saints lost five games this year, and four of them were against the Vikings, Patriots, Rams, and Falcons. The point to make there is that they might not be the best-of-the-best in the NFL, but they are consistent and don’t suffer these weird upset losses. The fact that they took care of business twice against the Panthers has already set one of those standards.
The Saints returned to being an excellent offensive team this year, led by explosive play at the running back position that allows Drew Brees to not be so one-dimensional. Also, the Saints’ defense has gone from consistently being the worst in football to now being a bit above average (and opportunistic when you consider the turnovers).
While I’m gushing over the Saints, the Panthers are a little tough to figure out. They went 11-5 in the NFC, with their defense being vastly improved from a year ago. On offense, they grinded things out, but did not have much of a ground game besides Cam Newton taking it himself as the team’s leading rusher, and he tossed 16 interceptions. This should be the funnest game of the weekend, but I’m locked in to the Saints. Saints 31, Panthers 24
Browns fans should use this as an open thread to discuss the game!