What are the key statistical matchups in the Sunday night clash between the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints? We'll give you one for each quarterback, as well as an under-the radar noteworthy matchup on special teams.
Cam Newton vs the blitz
Cam Newton has faced five or more pass rushers on 42 percent of his dropbacks this season, the highest rate in the NFL.
But he’s handled that pressure very well during the Panthers eight-game winning streak. He’s completed 64 percent of his throws against it, with seven touchdowns, two interceptions and only eight sacks. His Total QBR against pass rushes of five or more was 11.1 in the first four games of the season, but 90.0 during the winning streak.
Streaks on the Line
The Saints have sacked opposing quarterbacks on 8.5 percent of dropbacks, the second-highest percentage in the NFL (trailing only the Buffalo Bills, 8.7 percent).
Panthers secondary vs. Drew Brees deep throws
Drew Brees has excelled on throws at least 15 yards downfield, but last week against the Seahawks, he struggled significantly with them, going 0 for 8.
Brees had completed at least three such throws in every other game this season, and had completed at least half of those passes in each of his previous five games. For the season, he has 13 touchdowns and two interceptions on throws of that length, the plus-11 differential tied with Nick Foles for the best in the league.
It would be unlike Brees to have two bad games in a row on these throws, but the Panthers are well equipped to stop him.
The Panthers have the highest rate of interceptions per attempt on throws at least 15 yards downfield (11 percent). They’ve picked off nine throws of that length this season, including at least one in four of the last five games. And they’ve only allowed three touchdowns.
Also of note for the Panthers with regards to stopping Jimmy Graham: Panthers opponents have completed 68 percent of their passes when targeting tight ends. That's a high success rate-- the 10th-highest against any team in the NFL.
Under-the-Radar Key: Thomas Morstead vs Ted Ginn Jr.
Saints punter Thomas Morstead and his coverage team will face a challenge this week in Ted Ginn Jr., who ranks sixth in the NFL at 12.2 yards per punt return.
The Saints have netted an average of 43 yards per punt this season, the second-highest average in the NFL. Opponents have had an average post-punt field position of the 23-yard line. Only two teams have put their opponents in a tougher position.
Ginn has four punt returns of at least 20 yards this season. The Saints are one of four teams to not allow a return of 20 yards or longer.