Website submission from John in Durham:Why is there so much despair about the Saints matchup? They played mediocre down the stretch going 3-3 in their last six. They are missing three defensive starters and have been susceptible to the run down the stretch. If Trai Turner returns we have a good chance.
I'm not usually a glass-half-full kind of guy. And in the 13 seasons I've covered the Panthers, I think I've also proven I'm not a homer. But I'm a bit perplexed, too, John.
Listen, I totally get some of the gloom. The offense was not good in the final two games of the regular season, and the Panthers are going to a tough place to play against a team that outscored them 65-34 this season. But the Saints also limped toward the finish line, and it seems many are forgetting Carolina won seven of its last nine.
Like many of you, I'm not sure the Panthers have enough firepower to compete against a potent offense. If I were a betting man, I'd hesitate to pick them straight up to win this game. But I've also been burned multiple times when I've been absolutely sure the Panthers had no shot. The most convinced I ever was was in 2014 when they hadn't won in two months. Then they went to the Superdome, cruised down the field on the opening drive and won going away, 41-10.
In the first two meetings this season, the Saints didn't even need stud rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Now he's back. But so is Greg Olsen, who didn't play in either matchup. And as you mentioned, the Panthers should get Trai Turner back. He's no small part of the offense. Neither is Jonathan Stewart, who I think can still do some damage – if his back is OK and if he gets enough carries.
Sure, the matchup looks about as good as the offense has lately. But one reason the NFL is so addicting is that it so often surprises. Maybe it will again Sunday.
For that, I'll give you this from one of my favorite homers:
I'll never understand why so many care about this sort of thing, but as you may have read Wednesday morning, the Panthers will be wearing white. And if they have a "lucky" playoff color, that's it. They're 9-4 in the playoffs wearing white, versus 0-3 in black.
On the other hand, the Panthers have a losing record all-time wearing white in the regular season but a winning record wearing either black or their alternate blue jerseys. This season, they're 5-4 in white, 5-0 in black and 1-1 in blue.
I'm pretty sure how Newton and Co. play will have a slightly bigger factor than what color they're playing in.
Coaches do make sure key backups rotate into team periods, but there are only so many reps to go around. Starters need most of those. That leaves only a few for guys like Cameron Artis-Payne, whose work on offense before Sunday totaled just 25 snaps this season. So, yeah, in situations like that – when a starter's a late scratch – rust could show on a backup.
Email from Greg: Hey Bill,Do you think, blah blah blah … Not going to ask what everyone I'm sure already is. Cam is Cam, and his bad days can be really bad, and his good days can be great! It is what it is. My question: Do you know of any NA (non-alcoholic) craft beers sold in or around Charlotte? I actually live in Salisbury, but highly doubt anything good is sold in my neck of the woods. I've found a few beers that aren't horrible, such as Becks NA and Erdinger, but would love something new. No luck so far, but thought maybe you had seen something.
I haven't, but I sent your question to the ultra-helpful Blake Monroe at Good Bottle Co. here in Charlotte. Even though it's not really a "craft beer," he suggested Unknown's ginger offering.
Yup. They're allowed to attend meetings and to work on the side with trainers. Both have been around.
Maybe not, but they don't want to take that chance. They put off grooming someone behind Newton for too long, so they're now investing time – and a roster spot – on a guy they believe has some potential. I say, why not? And that's a nice segue into …
Derek Anderson's contract expires after this season, and while I think they like Gilbert, odds are they're not just going to hand him the backup gig. He'll have competition, and I think this is the year they could finally spend a mid-round pick on a quarterback.