Carolina was never really in this game, not really. It was 21- 14 Saints at the half, but it didn’t feel that close re-watching the game. Eventually, the Saints were up 31-14 on their way to a 31-21 victory. The Saints outplayed the Panthers all game and came away with the win…despite not having their top cover corner.
New Orleans is pretty much a lock for the playoffs. 9-3 record, and games with the Jets and Tampa still remain…11 wins should be very achievable. They also have two games left with Atlanta, and if they split those the Saints should be a 12-4 NFC South winner (after an 0-2 start to the season). The only real fly in the ointment would be if the Saints lost tonight at Atlanta. It would draw the Falcons to within a game of the Saints…and they meet again Week 16. The Falcons NFC South title hopes rest upon beating the Saints tonight. Either way, the Saints are very likely playoff bound.
Carolina has a tougher road to hoe. They’d love a Saints loss tonight because then if they win this week…they’d be tied with New Orleans at 9-4 (Saints own the tie-breaker). However, the Panthers play the Vikings this week…a likely loss. Carolina has Green Bay the following week…just in time for Aaron Rodgers to return.
It’s possible the Panthers will lose the next two weeks, and lose their grip on the playoffs and set up a Week 17 showdown at Atlanta for a ‘winner gets in as a wild card’ finale.
The Dallas Cowboys’ path to the playoffs gets a lot easier if Carolina loses their next two games/winds up 9-7 or worse. Carolina’s season is on the line the next two weeks even though it doesn’t feel like it is…it is.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- There’s no hotter runner in the NFL than Alvin Kamara (9-60-2, 5-66-0/6). I haven’t seen a running back this unstoppable since Kareem Hunt earlier this season.
I do make that statement for the shock value of it…because it absolutely rings true – everyone went off a cliff for Hunt, and now all that energy is transferred over to Kamara. Comparing the two…Kamara looks way better than Hunt ever did during his sweet early season run, but I digress…
Running backs can get hot like this. They have to be good to begin with but things can happen to push them to great for a stretch. For Kamara, he’s obviously talented…much more than I scouted him for, but he also has a top NFL O-Line and a QB that defenses have to respect. All these things are converging to create a star RB. Also, add in – the way Sean Payton is using him is perfect. He gets Kamara out from between the tackles a lot and gets him the ball in space. It’s not that complicated, but 25-28+ other NFL teams make it complicated for themselves.
Kamara is good, maybe great, but most importantly he has the full faith and confidence of his head coach…critical for fantasy scouting. Kamara will not lose touches anytime soon, even if he tails off a bit with the ‘wow’ plays. Kamara is there for the long haul with Peyton. Sean Peyton stuck with Mark Ingram and paid him salary-wise, way more than he ever should have. It’s good to be locked in with the coach – Kamara is…a perfect situation, a perfect storm.
I thought the Hunt drop-off was coming and saw signals that made my spidey-senses tingle right away with Hunt, but Kamara feels different with the overall picture so favorable for him in New Orleans. A great example – Jerick McKinnon could be doing the same exact work if he had a system that believed in him. Kamara would be Marlon Mack if he were in Indy. Sometimes the planets line up right…and I didn’t really, fully see it ahead of time with Kamara as much as I should have.
I will be interested to see how Kamara does if he has to take a full workload tonight with Ingram hobbled, and the defense now focused on him. Kamara isn’t a guy I want taking 20 carries/taking a beating up the middle a lot.
Remember, when Christian McCaffrey (6-16-0, 5-37-0/6) was supposed to be the best pass catching RB everyone had to have? Nope, it was Alvin Kamara...apparently.
-- A player in a situation I don’t like – Devin Funchess (4-60-1/7).
Funchess is an OK player, a solid-ish WR talent…but he’s not a #1 WR. Carolina has set it up so that he is their #1 WR…and thus he gets the top coverage from the defenses, etc., and is at risk of getting shutoff by great corners. He’s not ready for that type of work. It’s not his game. He’s never been a #1 WR.
Funchess had excellent cover-man Ken Crawley on him a lot in this game…Funchess didn’t make his first catch in this game until 0:20 left in the 3rd-quarter. A MASSIVE NFC South affair and the Panthers’ #1 WR doesn’t have a catch the first 44+ minutes of the game?
Later, as the game was pretty much out of reach, Funchess caught a sideline pass, the CB went for the pick (missed times it) and not the tackle, and Funchess sauntered into the end zone. He salvaged his fantasy day late but that hides the story that Funchess was handled this day. Xavier Rhodes in Week 14…you don’t want any part of that with Funchess in your lineup.
-- Greg Olsen (DNP) didn’t play in this game after reaggravating his foot the week prior. He sat out and is prepping to get back for Week 14…just in time for tougher-against-the-TEs Minnesota and Green Bay. I fear Olsen is not 100% and has two not as favorable matchups ahead.
However, if Olsen plays, if he’s active and been practicing OK…you have to see him as a TE1 until proven otherwise. I just don’t have the guts, or desperation, to start him Week 14. I’d like to see him back for a week before I jump in – if I have other nice TE options.
-- Week 12, the Rams got lucky…the Saints were missing their two best corners (Crawley and Lattimore). In this game, Crawley was back but Lattimore was out…and they still flustered the Panthers. Lattimore should be back for TNF vs. Julio Jones Week 14. Lattimore is one of the 5-10 best corners in the league right now.
People have asked…aren’t the Saints a good DST now, and should I be picking them up ahead of the curve?
It’s not a crazy thought but the Saints DST scares me a bit when facing competent QBs. What they do with Atlanta in Week 14 lets you know how much to trust them Week 15 against a suddenly good Jets offense.
The Saints current 10-game, 9-1 streak breaks down like this defensively…
Facing Cam 2x, Cutler, Hundley, Trubisky, Winston/Fitzpatrick, Tyrod – they’ve allowed 11.7 PPG. Carolina scoring 21 this week was the best performance against them, and that was with the Saints down a top CB.
Facing Stafford, Cousins, Goff – the Saints defense has allowed 31.7 PPG.
Matt Ryan this week and Week 16, and Josh McCown Week 15…they probably fall in the middle of these two QB lists – not awful matchups for the Saints but not very favorable ones either.
Snap Counts of Interest…
37 = Kamara
36 = Ingram
47 = Funchess
32 = Shepard
25 = Clay
23 = Byrd