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Week 2: Saints-Panthers matchup

The SportsXchange

New Orleans at Carolina

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte- TV: FOX; DirecTV: 704

*TV announcers: Ron Pitts, Mike Martz, Kristina Pink

*Keys to the game: The Saints have a new defensive coordinator in Steve Spagnuolo, but some of the breakdowns in coverage and poor tackling that were problematic the past two seasons were evident as Washington's Robert Griffin III put together a record performance by a rookie last week. New Orleans now must prepare for another dual-threat quarterback, although Carolina's entire running game was silenced in Tampa Bay last week. The Panthers averaged less than a yard per carry in Week 1, and the Saints want to force long passing downs to help thwart the threat of QB Cam Newton's legs. New Orleans didn't have much more success on the ground last week, but that was mostly due to trying to dig out of a double-digit deficit most of the game. The Saints need to come out sharper and help Drew Brees avoid another 52-pass outing.

*Matchup to watch - Saints RT Zach Strief vs. Panthers DE Antwan Applewhite: The Panthers are in need of a strong pass-rushing presence opposite Charles Johnson, but Applewhite managed just one assisted tackle despite starting last week's game. Strief flies a bit under the radar on a strong offensive line, but the seventh-year veteran doesn't let many defenders get a hand on Brees.

*Player spotlight - Saints CB Corey White: The fifth-round pick out of Samford started the season opener and was under the gun as part of a pass defense that gave up 320 passing yards to RGIII.

*Fast facts: The Saints have swept the past two season series. ... Brees has a touchdown pass in 44 consecutive regular-season games, three shy of Johnny Unitas' NFL record. ... Newton had a 79.6 passer rating in two meetings last season.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Saints have to hit the film room hard this week after being embarrassed by Robert Griffin III in their opener. Cam Newton presents similar assignment challenges, but the Saints also have Drew Brees, who steps up to avoid a debilitating 0-2 start.

*Our pick: Saints 27-24
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