The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers are readying for Week 17, with Teddy Bridgewater hoping to leave a lasting impression on the Panthers in his last game of the season. And the Saints have plenty to play for in terms of playoff positioning.
This week, I exchanged a series of questions and answers with Tim Weaver over at Panthers Wire to get the scoop on how Carolina is preparing for the regular season finale. Here’s what we’ve learned:
So what's the verdict on Teddy Bridgewater this year? Do you feel he played well enough to keep Carolina from looking for a new quarterback?
Unfortunately, not. Bridgewater had some strong games early in the season. Some of his best work was even against Super Bowl contenders like the Saints and Chiefs, but he just hasn’t been consistent or productive enough to justify keeping him around as the long-term QB1. Bridgewater only has 15 touchdown passes in 14 games and his ball security has dropped off a cliff in the second half of the year. He has 9 interceptions and several games with multiple fumbles. It’s a shame because we really wanted him to thrive. The Panthers built a strong supporting cast around him, too. They have an excellent 1-2-3 at wide receiver, a sharp play-caller and a respectable enough offensive line. Considering all that, he hasn’t lived up to what he could have accomplished. Bridgewater is 0/8 on potential game-winning or tying drives this year. He’ll probably be around until 2022, but Carolina needs to keep looking and should consider picking the best QB on the board in the first round.
Bridgewater wasn't the only one to go turncoat. How did former Saints like OC Joe Brady and TE Chris Manhertz perform this year?
Joe Brady has had a couple bad games (especially in Green Bay) but he has shown a lot of talent and potential as a play-caller. With a healthy Christian McCaffrey plus a more aggressive and athletically capable quarterback running the offense this team could have averaged 30 points per game this year, no question. The improvement they showed in the red zone despite Bridgewater’s issues was a good example of Brady figuring out creative solutions to a problem without having to upgrade the roster. Hopefully they can keep him around on staff because I’d love to see what he does in year two. Manhertz is an excellent blocker, but that’s pretty much all he does anymore. The previous regime occasionally used him as a gadget weapon in the passing game. Not Brady though. Manhertz has only been targeted eight times all year. That said, his blocking makes him worth keeping around even if he never catches a pass.
The Panthers are probably resting Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis this week. How do you expect the offense to adjust?
On the depth chart we will see either Trenton Cannon or undrafted rookie Rodney Smith as the top running back. That doesn’t mean they will get the majority of the work in the run game, though. Last week wide receiver Curtis Samuel was the most efficient rusher against Washington, posting a team-high 52 yards on seven carries. He has almost 200 yards and two touchdowns this season, so I’d expect to see some more of that.
Brian Burns could be sidelined by injury, too. Which defenders should Saints fans watch out for in his absence?
Marquis Haynes got the start for Burns last week and he did alright. The entire defensive line is loaded, though. The Panthers have another potential monster pass rusher in rookie Yetur Gross-Matos and strong backups like Efe Obada. The interior linemen can get pressure, too. Especially first-round pick Derrick Brown. Burns is obviously in another league, but this is still a quality unit even without him.
Alright: What's your score prediction? Can the Panthers upset the Saints?
Maybe if the Saints were resting their key players like two years ago. New Orleans probably has the strongest roster in the league and has since 2017. They’re obviously a better team right now while Bridgewater has been getting worse for the Panthers every week. Carolina’s defense has really toughened up the last few weeks though so I wouldn’t expect a blowout. Saints 24, Panthers 17