The Panthers and Saints have one of the biggest rivalries in all of football. Hate runs deep between the two teams, and the rivalry has been heated from the very start. Both Carolina and New Orleans have been in the same division since Carolina’s inaugural year in 1995. From 1995-2001, the Panthers were in the NFC West division, where New Orleans had been since 1970. In 2002, both teams went to the newly formed NFC South, where the rivalry continued.
The Saints and Panthers have played in 48 regular season games and Carolina leads the series 25-23. This has also been a close series regarding total points scored, as Carolina has scored 1,065 and New Orleans has scored 1,031. The Panthers have swept the Saints six times, in 1996, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2012 and 2015. The Saints have swept The Panthers five times, in 2000, 2001, 2010, 2011 and 2017. The Saints also beat the Panthers in their only playoff meeting during the 2017-18 season.
The first meeting between the Panthers and the Saints came on October 22nd, 1995 at Clemson University, where Carolina played their first season. The Panthers came away with the victory that day, due mainly to Carolina’s defense intercepting Jim Everett four times. The Panthers’ defense was led by Brett Maxie with 2 interceptions, Bubba McDowell with 1 interception and Sam Mills with 1 interception. After winning the first game, New Orleans went on to win 8 out of the next 13 games. It should be noted that Panthers’ Hall of Honor member, Wesley Walls, played for the Saints in 1995. These two teams would have a lot of battles throughout their years in the NFC West, but it wouldn’t hold a candle to what had yet to come.
NFC South 2002-2010
In 2002, the NFL realigned the divisions after they added the Houston Texans as an expansion team. The NFC South was born and the Panthers and Saints remained rivals. Carolina would win five out of the next eight games, from 2002-2005. In 2006, the division got a little tougher. After not getting the contract he wanted in San Diego, quarterback Drew Brees signed a six year deal with New Orleans. Even though the future Hall of Fame quarterback has been a thorn in Carolina’s side, from 2006-2010 Carolina still beat New Orleans six out of ten times. Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith and a nasty Panthers’ defense made it nearly impossible for New Orleans to beat Carolina. Additionally, New Orleans didn’t have that great of a defense. In 2010, Carolina had a rookie quarterback named Jimmy Clausen starting. New Orleans swept Carolina that year, and Carolina went 2-14.
Cam Newton Era
In 2011, Cam Newton was drafted first overall for the Carolina Panthers. Since then, there have been many exciting, high scoring games and last second heroics by both teams. One particular last second win came when Cam led the Carolina offense down the field and threw a touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds left to beat the Saints in 2013. The week 16 game helped Carolina win the division, and when that touchdown was scored, the stadium shook like never before.
Since Cam was drafted, the Panthers are 8-8 against the Saints. One of those wins came last year with quarterback Kyle Allen at the helm. The fact that these two teams are both 8-8 in regular season meetings in the last eight years, shows how hard they play against each other. Carolina has scored a total of 409 points in the Cam era and New Orleans has scored 434 points in the same time.
New Orleans has been consistently good for the last two years, as their records have been 11-5 in 2017 and 13-3 in 2018. However, it’s hard to gauge what they’ll do this year. Drew Brees is older, their defense is still suspect and they didn’t have the salary cap space to make necessary moves. Saints notable transactions:
Released S Kurt Coleman
Signed RB Latavius Murray
Signed TE Jared Cook
Signed DE Wes Horton
New Orleans didn’t have a lot of cap space to work with, but they also went to the playoffs last year with, essentially, this same team.
Barring major injuries, Carolina should have a decent shot against the Saints. Marty Hurney upgraded the Panthers significantly this offseason, and they look to build on the promising start they had in 2018, where they started the season 6-2. Carolina’s notable transactions:
Released CB Captain Munnerlyn
Re-signed S Eric Reid
Signed C Matt Paradis
Re-signed OT Daryl Williams
Signed DE/OLB Bruce Irvin
Signed WR Chris Hogan
Re-signed DT Kyle Love
Drafted DE/OLB Brian Burns
Drafted OT Greg Little
Signed WR Aldrick Robinson
Signed CB Javien Elliott
Signed DT Gerald McCoy
Signed S Tre Boston
That’s a huge pull for Hurney and the Panthers, and it shows that they’re in win-now mode. Hopefully, it translates into wins on the field in 2019.
What to Expect in 2019
The expectations for the Panthers in the upcoming season, is to split the series with the Saints. Both teams have the talent to sweep the other, but chances are, each will win at home. This is a hard fought battle every time these two teams hit the field, and it should be fun (and exhausting) to watch. Here is a comparison of key players for both teams:
In 14 games, Newton threw for 3,395 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2018. It should be noted that Cam played injured from week nine to week fourteen.
In 15 games, Brees threw for 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 2018.
It’s hard to argue that Brees has had a Hall of Fame career. He has passed for 6,701 yards, 44 touchdowns and 20 interceptions for the Saints in 23 games against Carolina. Newton has 3,238 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 15 games against New Orleans in 15 games. Brees obviously has the edge over Newton in this one. Given Brees’ age and loss of production, as well as Cam being healthy, it could be a lot closer this year.
Last season, Christian McCaffrey had 219 carries for 1,098 yards (5.0 AVG per carry) and 7 touchdowns in 16 games. He also had 107 receptions for 867 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Last season, Alvin Kamara had 194 carries for 883 yards (4.6 AVG per carry) and 14 touchdowns in 15 games. He also had 81 receptions for 709 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Essentially, McCaffrey and Kamara are the same player with similar skill sets. McCaffrey had a better stat line, but he was also the featured back in Carolina, but Kamara shared carries with Mark Ingram. It remains to be seen if Kamara can be consistent with more of the workload. Latavius Murray could also take carries away from him. McCaffrey could possibly take the lead between the two players this season.
Last season, Samuel had 39 receptions for 494 touchdowns and 5 touchdowns in 13 games. He missed time due to injury and it took time for him to become more integrated into the offense when he returned.
Last season, Michael Thomas had 125 receptions for 1,405 yards and 9 touchdowns in 16 games.
Thomas wins this matchup based on his consistent performance and the fact that he has more receptions in his first 3 years than any other player in NFL history. Samuel is an unknown element due to his injury history. Samuel was the training camp MVP in the eyes of the coaching staff, but it remains to be seen how it will translate to the games.
Olsen, who has had trouble staying healthy the last two years, only had 27 receptions for 291 yards and 4 touchdowns last season, in 9 games. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and get back to his Pro Bowl level, but there are no guarantees.
Last season, Cook has 68 receptions for 896 yards and 6 touchdowns in 16 games with the Raiders.
Olsen and Cook are pretty even. Both players are good pass catchers, both are good blockers and both are good in the red zone. If Olsen were healthy, he’d be ahead of Cook, but the last two years show that Greg might be considered injury prone. The foot injury is tough to recover from. Hopefully Olsen’s foot will be strong and he can return to his Pro Bowl form.
Last season, Carolina’s defense was in the middle of the league, as they allowed the 15th most yards per game and the 19th most points per game.
Last season, New Orlean’s defense was also in the middle of the league, as they allowed the 14th most yards per game and also the 14th most points per game.
Carolina’s defense should be much improved this year, with the additions of Gerald McCoy, Bruce Irvin, Brian Burns, Tre Boston and Javien Elliott. Carolina will also have a multi-look defense instead of a base 4-3 like in year’s past, so it will be interesting to see how much of a pass rush will be generated this season. New Orleans did little to upgrade their defense. They’ll likely be middle of the pack again, but against Carolina, they will likely struggle. How can any defense account for McCaffrey, Newton, Samuel, Moore and Olsen?
If Carolina stays healthy, they should at least split the series. There’s a possibility that Carolina could sweep if Brees’ play continues to decline. Mainly, it could happen if things continue to click for Carolina. This could be the year that the Panthers retake their thrones as the Kings of the South.