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Know your opponent: How the Carolina Panthers match up with New Orleans Saints in Week 14

The Carolina Panthers are officially eliminated from the 2023 NFL playoffs — but that doesn’t mean their impact on the postseason picture is over.

The Panthers (1-11) travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints (5-7) on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Superdome. The Panthers opened as 5.5-point underdogs with the over/under at 39, per FanDuel Sportsbook.

This NFC South battle has playoff implications for the home side, a group that has a question mark at quarterback after Derek Carr had to exit their Week 13 loss to the Detroit Lions early with injuries.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Saints in this matchup.

What happens if Derek Carr can’t play?

Carr, the Saints’ streaky signal-caller, was forced out of his third game of the season after suffering three injuries on Sunday against the relentless Lions.

Yes ... three injures.

Carr is now in concussion protocol for the second time in New Orleans’ past three games, and he also tweaked his shoulder and his back. The hit that caused most of this carnage came in the fourth quarter, when Lions defensive lineman Bruce Irvin hit him hard and was subsequently called for a roughing the passer penalty. A cart was brought out to Carr, who writhed on the field in pain for several minutes, but he somehow walked off the field under his own power.

No further update was issued on Carr’s health status, as of the time of this article’s online publication.

This isn’t good news for the Saints, who already struggle scoring and who dwell in the bottom-half of the league in most statistical categories. Among those categories: points per game (21.4), red zone scoring percentage (47.7%) and rush yards a game (105.1).

Jameis Winston took over in Carr’s injured stead in the fourth quarter. He led the team on a touchdown drive to make it a one-score game and finished 2 of 5 for 41 yards.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, left, sacks New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday, September 18, 2023. Khadejeh Nikouyeh/Knikouyeh@charlotteobserver.com
Carolina Panthers linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, left, sacks New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday, September 18, 2023. Khadejeh Nikouyeh/Knikouyeh@charlotteobserver.com

Most formidable parts of Saints matchup

There’s no real use sizing up opposing defenses when it comes to these Panthers, who haven’t been able to engender any offensive confidence by vice of a beaten up offensive line and struggling rookie quarterback.

So let’s look at the Saints’ offense vs. the Panthers’ defense.

Carolina’s defense put together another solid effort on Sunday, albeit against the up-and-down Bucs. The Panthers only allowed Baker Mayfield to throw for 202 yards and a touchdown on 29 tosses, and they even coaxed an interception and a sack. The bad news? They allowed 128 yards and two scores on the ground.

The Panthers’ struggling run defense has been a discussion point all season. Carolina allows its opponents on average to gain 125.2 yards a game (23rd in the league). That isn’t good against these Saints — who with Alvin Kamara (508 yards, four TDs), Jamaal Williams (147 yards) and QB/TE Taysom Hill (346 yards, four TDs) have an explosive potential that is waiting to cut through.

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara is tackled by Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman during the second half an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) Butch Dill/AP
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara is tackled by Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman during the second half an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) Butch Dill/AP

Will the Panthers cover? Should you take the over?

The Panthers have kept these past two games close. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Panthers, entering Week 14, have only covered the spread once this year. (That doesn’t include the three-point loss to Tampa Bay; the final line was +2.5.)

As for the 39 over/under figure: The Panthers average a league second-worst 15.9 points per game and haven’t crossed the 20-point threshold in six consecutive games. The Saints only average 21.4 points, too.