The Panthers are trying to limit hits like this one by limiting Cam Newton's time out of the pocket.
The feud: I think the bad blood between the Panthers and Saints is much worse than people realize. And it’s flowing mostly from the Panthers. There has been some reflection on how the Panthers felt the Saints were running up the score unnecessarily in Week 17 last season. But that’s only a small part of what’s simmering between these teams. When the NFL made its announcement about the Saints’ bounty program in March, it named Panthers quarterback Cam Newton as one of the players who was targeted for injury. That revelation did not sit well in any corner of the Panthers' organization. I’m sure coach Ron Rivera will order his players not to attempt any sort of retaliation that could result in penalties. But I think this is going to be an extremely physical game.
The target: With Brent Grimes lost for the season to injury, the Falcons are turning to Chris Owens as their nickel back. Owens is fast and athletic, but he has struggled in coverage in the past. I think it’s safe to assume Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy will try to target Owens as often as possible.
Staying above water: It’s too early to say any contest is a must-win game. But the meeting between the Panthers and Saints comes pretty close to that. Only 12 percent of the teams to start 0-2 have made the postseason since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Teams that have started 1-1 have made the playoffs 41 percent of the time.
Staying grounded: The Bucs backed up coach Greg Schiano’s claim that they’re going to run the ball a lot. In the opener, Josh Freeman attempted only 24 passes. I would expect more of the same against the Giants. In Freeman’s 41 career starts, the Bucs are 4-1 when he throws fewer than 25 passes, and 14-22 when he throws 25 or more.
Legend or myth? There is a perception out there that Carolina’s Newton is a great downfield passer. But that might be a myth. Newton hasn’t completed more than two passes on throws of more than 20 yards downfield in his past nine games. He did start off quickly in that department last season, accomplishing the feat in five of his first eight games, but he has been quiet since.