Jim Henderson's Black & Gold Breakdown: Saints vs. Panthers

There is much to be concerned with and little to like about the Panthers visit here on Sunday. These are some of the reasons why:

Cam Newton for one. Forget about his passing prowess. As a runner he has a better yards per carry average than any Saint...has three times as many rushing touchdowns as any Saint...and has a run 22 yards longer than the Saints' longest run.

The Panthers have 8 rushing touchdowns of 20 yards or more. The Saints? none.

For the entire season the Panthers have allowed two touchdowns in the first half. They have shut out their opponents in the second half of three of the last four games. The Saints were shut out in the second half of the loss to Seattle. They have not scored a touchdown in the second half of their last three games.

In points allowed in the NFL the Panthers are number one, the Seahawks number two. In yards allowed the Seahawks are number one. The Panthers are number two.

The Panthers have 16 interceptions. The Saints have 10. The Panthers have returned two of them for scores. The Saints none. The Panthers have forced a turnover in 16 straight games.

The Panthers are first in opponents' scoring average, allowing 13 points per game. They are first in total defense, second in rushing defense.

They won last week for the 8th straight time, this time while missing both their leading rusher and pass rusher...both of whom are back this week.

They have perennially given the Saints problems despite their records. They lead the series 19 - 17. They lead the series in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome 9-8, sweeping the Saints a year ago.

So why are the Saints favored Sunday night? It has to be the setting. The Saints have never met the Panthers in prime time but welcome the night-light spot-light falling on them here. This is the fourth time in 5 weeks the Saints will play in prime time. On Sunday nights the Saints are 7-1...5-0 at home.

If the home crowd can make that much of a difference again Sunday night given the recent fortunes of these two teams, over 60,000 game balls should be distributed to the departing patrons.