CHARLOTTE – The Panthers kick off three straight weeks of home games with their first divisional opponent this week.
The New Orleans Saints (1-1) travel to Charlotte for Carolina's NFC South opener this Sunday at 1 p.m. at Bank of America Stadium.
The Saints started the year with two NFC South matchups. They first came back to beat the Falcons in Atlanta, and they nearly handed Tom Brady his fifth regular-season loss to New Orleans since he joined the Buccaneers in 2020.
But Brady and Tampa Bay dominated the fourth quarter, leaving New Orleans with a 20-10 win over the Saints. Bucs Mike Evans received a one-game suspension after an altercation with Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who was disqualified during the matchup but didn't receive a suspension for his role in the scuffle.
One of Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson's takeaways from watching the Saints in their loss to Tampa Bay last Sunday was simple:
Here's what to know about the Saints:
JAMEIS WINSTON OFF TO AN UP-AND-DOWN START; REPORTEDLY PLAYING THROUGH INJURIES
Saints quarterback Jameis Winston has yet to piece together a complete performance through the Saints' first two games.
He has completed 64.9 percent of his passes (48-of-74) for 505 yards, which puts him toward the middle of the league heading into Week 3, but he's thrown three interceptions (tied for fourth-most in the NFL) against three passing touchdowns.
Winston has also taken 10 sacks, second-most in the league behind only Cincinnati's Joe Burrow. Winston is also reportedly playing through a back injury.
According to reports, Winston had four fractures in his back leading up to the Week 2 matchup with Tampa Bay, and he was listed as questionable on the Saints' final injury report before the game. He's coming off multiple recent injuries, when he tore the ACL and damaged the MCL in his left leg seven games into last year, and sprained his right foot in the preseason.
The Saints have Andy Dalton behind Winston should he be unable to play. But Winston seemed to downplay his reported back injury to New Orleans media after the Buccaneers loss on Sunday.
"Everyone in that locker room was playing with some type of banged-up something," he said. "But like I said, what's important is offensively I can do a better job of executing."
SAINTS' OFFENSE IS PRONE TO TURNOVERS, MIXED RESULTS ON THIRD DOWN
Winston's tendency to throw interceptions, coupled with some ball security issues, have the Saints tied with the Los Angeles Rams for the league's most turnovers lost heading into Week 3.
New Orleans has lost the ball six times in two games, with three lost fumbles (the most in the NFL, tied with Atlanta and Tennessee) and Winston's three interceptions (tied with Washington, Las Vegas, and Minnesota for fourth-most in the league).
The Saints have watched nearly a quarter of their drives (24 percent) end in a takeaway through the season's first two games, the third-most in the league.
New Orleans' turnover tendencies could bode well for the Panthers, the only team in the NFL yet to record a takeaway this year.
The Saints have also struggled to stay on the field, ranked 24th in the league with a 30.8 percent conversion rate on third down. They've gone 8-of-26 on third down this year, with two back-to-back performances converting 4-of-13 attempts against both the Falcons and Buccaneers.
NEW ORLEANS DEFENSE IS GENERALLY SOLID
The Saints' defense has been a brighter spot as their offense looks to build more consistency.
They've always been stead up from with Cameron Jordan, and linebackers Pete Werner and Demario Davis have been anchors this year. Werner leads the Saints with 21 total tackles, a forced fumble, and one of New Orleans' five tackles for loss through the first two weeks, while Davis has come up with 12 tackles, a pass deflection, and a fumble recovery.
The defense hasn't come up with an interception yet, but they have forced three fumbles and recovered two. The Saints have totaled just two sacks and five tackles for loss on the season.
Safety Marcus Maye exited the Buccaneers game with a wrist injury. He is the team's second-leading tackler with 13 on the season and a forced fumble. But New Orleans should have Lattimore, the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback, available for the Panthers game despite his scuffle the Bucs.
The Panthers trail the all-time series against the Saints, 27-29. Carolina has played New Orleans more than any other team in its history.