Scott Fowler's observations
I love watching Saints receiver MARQUES COLSTON play. He's not that fast, but he's big and strong and just goes up and gets it over shorter defensive backs. He's everything, in other words, that DWAYNE JARRETT should be but hasn't been for the Panthers. And Colston was a seventh-round pick; Jarrett a second-rounder.
The key for Carolina in this game: a lot of 10- to 12-play drives on offense. That means running the ball effectively, as usual. I think Carolina's only chance at an upset is to gain 200 yards on the ground, which likely would translate into 35 minutes of possession time, which would give New Orleans a couple fewer shots than the Saints are used to in terms of scoring.
Don't discount the confidence factor today with JAKE DELHOMME. He's never lost as a starter in the Superdome. For a quarterback whose confidence has been on-and-off all season, that's big. He's comfortable there - the city has long been a home away from home for him, personally and professionally.
It will be entertaining, but ultimately my prediction is:
New Orleans 34, Carolina 24
David Scott's three things to watch
Opportunistic unit has scored six TDs this season
The Saints' defense has scored six touchdowns this season, including three on interception returns by safety DARREN SHARPER. Until last week's game against Arizona, the Panthers had been plagued by that very thing: Opponents converting turnovers into points. Carolina did not have a turnover against the Cardinals and needs to make that a trend, not a one-shot deal, if it is to stay in the game today.
Picking on Panthers' young defensive backs
The Panthers' youthful secondary - which will include two rookies at times today - could be vulnerable to Saints quarterback DREW BREES' laser-like accuracy. But that's what was said last week when Carolina faced the Cardinals' KURT WARNER, and rookie safety SHERROD MARTIN ended up with two interceptions and first-year starter RICHARD MARSHALL had another. Seventh-round pick CAPTAIN MUNNERLYN, a cornerback, has played like veteran in coverage. Brees, though, is playing on a different level than Warner, and receiver MARQUES COLSTON loves to play the Panthers (14 catches for 216 yards in two games last season).
Carolina ground game missing its fullbacks
Much will be asked by the Panthers of running backs DEANGELO WILLIAMS and JONATHAN STEWART today - especially if the defense can contain the Saints and keep the game close. And the Panthers' run game is showing signs of returning to its 2008 form.
The Panthers, however, will not have fullback BRAD HOOVER or backup TONY FIAMMETTA, both out with injuries. How the Panthers handle their absence - a fullback's blocking is critical on most running plays - is going to be important.
David Scott's Panthers trivia
1. DeAngelo Williams has taken over the top spot on the Panthers' all-time rushing list. The rest of the top five includes DeShaun Foster, Tshimanga Biakabutuka, Stephen Davis and Fred Lane. Who's No. 6?
2 Who was the first quarterback Julius Peppers sacked?
3 Which university is represented the most on the Panthers' roster?
4 Aside from John Kasay, six players have briefly kicked field goals and extra points for the Panthers. Here are five - Richie Cunningham, Joe Nedney, Shayne Graham, Jon Hilbert and Jeff Chandler. Who is No. 6?
5 Where did quarterback Matt Moore transfer from before beginning his college career at Oregon State?
1 Anthony Johnson (1,795 yards)
2 Detroit's Mike McMahon (5 yards)
3 Oregon (A.J. Feeley, Jonathan Stewart, Geoff Schwartz, Dante Rosario)
4 Todd Sauerbrun
David Scott's key numbers
1 NFL rank in pass defense (160.6 yards per game).
5.3 Running back DeAngelo Williams' average yards per carry over the past two seasons.
44 Touchdown catches by receiver Steve Smith, tied for second on franchise's all-time list with Wesley Walls.
72.2: Percent success rate of scoring inside the 20 (15th in NFL).
120.3 Quarterback Jake Delhomme's passer rating in his past four games against New Orleans.
1 NFL rank in total offense (428.7 yards per game).
3 Interceptions returned for touchdowns by safety Darren Sharper.
11 Different Saints who have scored at least one rushing TD.
36 Touchdowns, third most in NFL history through seven games.
452 Catches since 2002 by Jeremy Shockey, third among NFL tight ends since then.
Middle linebacker JON BEASON has taken over the team tackles lead from weak-side linebacker THOMAS DAVIS, 68-63. Davis, however, missed a game because of hamstring injury. Davis averages 10.5 tackles per game; Beason 9.7. Beason also leads in the sack race between the two, 2.0 to 1.5. But Davis has two interceptions to Beason's one.
Williams roared past Foster
One last note about DEANGELO WILLIAMS' move into the top spot on the Panthers' all-time rushing list. A reason he passed DESHAUN FOSTER so quickly is his career 5.0 yards-per-carry average. Foster, who played for Carolina from 2002-07, averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Foster was released by San Francisco last season and is out of the league.