NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - You won't get much sympathy from Saints fans when you play without some starters out with injuries. But when two of the five starters you were missing as the Panthers were on a Monday night home loss to Tampa Bay include your quarterback/NFL MVP and top running back, it's bound to make a difference.
The Panthers are expected to welcome back both Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart against the Saints.
But even their restorations to the lineup probably won't restore the luster to the 15 and 1 Super Bowl runners-up of a year ago.
In their 1 and 4 start, the Panthers have been plagued by poor pass protection, penalties, turnovers and a porous secondary along with the aforementioned injuries.
The Panthers had just 19 turnovers in 2015 when they led the league in turnover differential. They already have 14 in the first five games of 2016.
Cam Newton is currently the 32nd rated quarterback in the league and emerging from concussion protocol. It would appear many of his teammates share his pain as theirs is a headache resulting from Super Bowl hangover.
These are two teams who are desperate for their first win in the NFC South…each with but a single victory out of the division. The Panthers came back from a 1 and 3 start under Ron Rivera in 2013 to go on to an 8-game winning streak to capture the first of their three straight NFC South Championships.
They will be motivated on Sunday to launch a similar comeback with the knowledge that they have. The Saints will be motivated by the realization that they have to.