Five fearless predictions for Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game at New Orleans:
1. Julius Peppers will have a sack on Drew Brees ...
But it will be one of only two sacks on Brees for the game. The Panthers barely touched Brees in the first meeting, sacking him just once and getting only three other hits on him. It wasn’t a fluke: The Saints have protected Brees well all season. Their 13 sacks allowed are third-fewest in the NFL, and Brees will keep the Panthers’ pass rushers on their heels with quick counts and quick releases.
2. Devin Funchess will have another 100-yard game.
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Funchess has produced since taking over as the No. 1 WR after Kelvin Benjamin was traded. And Sunday will be no different vs. a injury-depleted Saints secondary. New Orleans could be without two of their top three cornerbacks, including rookie Marshon Lattimore, who has an ankle injury. Funchess has earned Cam Newton’s trust with his play the past three games, when he’s averaged nearly six catches and 95 yards.
3. Alvin Kamara will break off at least one big play ...
And finish with more than 100 yards from scrimmage. Kamara was not a huge factor during the Week 3 matchup in Charlotte because the Saints were still rotating three backs at the time. But the rookie from Tennessee will be heavily involved this time, and will take advantage of a mismatch in space vs. a linebacker or safety. Kamara will join Billy Sims and Charley Taylor as the third rookie with 600 yards rushing and receiving.
4. There will be Cam vs. Cam crime.
Saints DE Cameron Jordan and Newton engaged in a somewhat playful war of words this week, which stemmed from Jordan making fun of Newton’s wardrobe and complimenting the Panthers for turning Newton into a pocket passer early in the season. Jordan had one of four sacks vs. Newton in the first meeting. And the guess here is those individual and team totals will be about the same with the Panthers dealing with the noise in the Dome.
5. Newton will play better than in Week 3.
Newton was not good in the first meeting, throwing for 167 yards and no touchdowns, with three interceptions and a 43.8 passer rating. Newton only had three carries that day, and he’ll extend some drives with his legs Sunday. But even without Lattimore – who missed the Week 3 game with a concussion – this is a better Saints defense than past editions. Still, Newton will play well. Brees will play better. Saints 27, Panthers 24.
Panthers at Saints
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
FOX (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews)