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Previewing New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers week 15 NFL contest – Sports – Gaston Gazette

Game: New Orleans Saints (11-2) at Carolina Panthers (6-7), 8:15 p.m.


TV: ESPN (Joe Tessitore play-by-play, Jason Witten and Anthony McFarland color analysts, Lisa Salters sideline reporter)


RADIO: WBT-AM 1110/WBT-FM 99.3 in Charlotte is flagship station (Mick Mixon play-by-play, Eugene Robinson and Jim Szoke color analysts, Kevin Donnalley sideline reporter)


LAST WEEK: Carolina – Lost 26-20 at Cleveland, New Orleans – Won 28-14 at Tampa Bay


NEXT WEEK: Carolina hosts Atlanta at 1 p.m. on Sunday, New Orleans hosts Pittsburgh at 4;25 p.m. on Sunday


THE SERIES: Carolina leads the all-time series 24-23 but has lost three straight matchups following last year’s regular season sweep and 31-26 wild card playoff victory. The teams have played on Sunday and Thursday night three times since 2013 but this marks their first-ever meeting on Monday Night Football.


RANKINGS AMONG NFL (Through 2018 week 14): Carolina offense – 9th overall, 2nd rushing, 15th passing. Carolina defense – 17th overall, 7th rushing, 20th passing. New Orleans offense – 7th overall, 9th-tie rushing, 11th passing. New Orleans defense – 14th overall, 1st rushing, 28th passing.


BY THE NUMBERS: 24-11 – Even after losing the first two games in December 2018, Ron Rivera-coached Panthers’ teams are 24-11 in December and January regular season games. Only once has Carolina had a losing record in the final month(s) of the regular season – The Panthers went 2-3 in 2016.


MATCHUP TO WATCH: Carolina rushing game vs. New Orleans defense – Led by second-year running back Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers are up to third in the NFL in rushing average at 137.4 yards per game. But New Orleans counters with the league’s best run defense by yielding 77.6 yards per game.


NOTABLE: Christian McCaffrey continues his productive season and enters Monday just 10 yards shy of DeAngelo Williams’ franchise record of 1,636 scrimmage yards set in 2008. McCaffrey has 926 yards rushing and 701 yards receiving for 1,627 total yards from scrimmage….

Cam Newton last week surpassed 3,000 yards passing this season and allowed him to join only Peyton Manning in NFL history as the only quarterbacks to surpass 3,000 yards passing in each of their first eight NFL seasons….

Carolina is 10-6 all-time on Monday Night Football and that .625 winning percentage is fourth in NFL history for MNF. The Panthers also are 5-2 on MNF in head coach Ron Rivera’s eight-year tenure….

The all-time series between the teams has always been competitive. In addition to Carolina’s slim 24-23 all-time series advantage, the Panthers hold an even slimmer all-time point differential advantage of 1,014 points to 1,013….

The series has been played every year since Carolina’s expansion season of 1995. Carolina has recorded six regular season sweeps, New Orleans has recorded five and there have been 12 regular season splits….

Five Panthers have connections to the Saints – running game coordinator John Matsko coached for the Saints (1994-96), running backs coach Jim Skipper coached for the Saints (1986-95), running back Travaris Cadet played for the Saints (2012-16) and tight end Chris Manhertz played for the Saints (2015-16)….

Seven Saints have connections to the Carolinas – head athletic trainer Scottie Patton is a 1986 Ashbrook High graduate and was an athletic trainer at Appalachian State (1986-90) and South Carolina (1990-91), assistant wide receivers coach Ronald Curry played football and basketball at North Carolina (1998-2001) and was athletic director and head football coach at Mooresville Christian Academy (2010-12), defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen coached at N.C. State (2013-16), safety Kurt Coleman played for the Panthers (2015-17), linebacker A.J. Klein played for the Panthers (2013-16), tight end Benjamin Watson played for Rock Hill, S.C., Northwestern High (1996-98) and defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth played at South Carolina (2014-17).


PREDICTION: New Orleans 31, Carolina 27 – Panthers give a last-gasp effort but New Orleans’ offense and defense is just too much for struggling Carolina.


(Gazette’s 2018 seasonal record: 6-7)



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