The Panthers didn't play particularly well in their home opener Sunday. Fortunately, Carolina welcomes a team this week that hasn't played particularly well, period. The New Orleans Saints are 1-11 in September over the past four years – the worst record in the NFL during that stretch – and currently 0-2. The first divisional matchup of the season should present a dogfight for both teams, but also a potential opportunity for the Panthers offense to click against a subpar defense.
A defense in disarray
Over the past few seasons, the Saints defense hasn't been known for being the best in the league. They've ranked near the bottom, but this season it appears they've hit an all-time low. New Orleans' 512.5 yards allowed per game average through the first two weeks is the highest total in the team's history and the second highest in the NFL during the modern era.
To add salt to the wound, the Saints also have allowed 777 passing yards through Week 2, and opposing quarterbacks are 14-of-16 for 398 yards on passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield - with more touchdowns (three) than incompletions (two).
Before the Saints fell to the Patriots 36-20 Sunday, reports surfaced that New Orleans was shopping starting safety Kenny Vaccaro. Rumors only escalated when head coach Sean Payton decided to bench the defensive back mid-game - although he didn't confirm trade talks.
"We need to get more consistent play, and that dates back to last weekend," Payton said on the benching.
Just before Payton made the move, Vaccaro had intercepted a pass, but it was voided because he was flagged for holding tight end Rob Gronkowski, whom he covered the majority of the game.
"I know Gronk had two catches on me, really great catches, and that was about it," Vaccaro said. "That's all that really happened. The next thing I know, I'm sitting next to Coach Payton."
While Payton downplayed trade talks, Vaccaro is in the final year of his contract. If the Saints don't plan to re-sign him in the offseason, the team could use the expiring asset to build for the future. Total offense
If there's one positive takeaway from the Saints' first two games, it's that Drew Brees is still playing at a high level. The 38-year old quarterback is the driving force behind an offense that ranks near the top of the NFL after two games. New Orleans is averaging 316 passing yards per game - second most behind Tom Brady and the Patriots - and 386.5 yards of total offense, third most behind the Patriots and Chiefs.
It's expected that the offense will receive a boost once wide receiver Willie Snead returns from a three-game suspension, but that won't be this week. The Panthers will be the final team to play New Orleans without one of Brees' top targets.
Running back committee
Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara. On paper, the trio sounds like the best backfield in the league. However, on the field, the Saints' rushing attack ranks 28th in the league. After two games, New Orleans has totaled 70.5 rushing yards per game on average and is one of eleven teams in the NFL that hasn't scored a touchdown on the ground.
That being said, Ingram and Kamara have shined as receivers out of the backfield. Through two games, Ingram leads the team in receptions (eight) and receiving yards (78) while Kamara has totaled 71 yards on eight receptions.
View the top photos from Panthers vs Bills by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez and second shooter Jamey Price.