Both the Panthers and Saints debuted new quarterbacks in the NFC South to start the 2023 season. And both Bryce Young, this year's No. 1 overall pick; and Derek Carr, New Orleans' biggest veteran acquisition, had their fair share of highs and lows. Now, the two will meet in prime time looking to take a step forward, kicking off a "Monday Night Football" doubleheader to close Week 2.
The Saints have had much more late-season success of late, advancing to the playoffs in four of their last six years. But it's the Panthers, who haven't tasted January football in six years, who have the recent edge in the divisional series, winning three of the last four matchups between the rivals. Granted, that was before either Carr or Young came to town. The former rebounded from a slow start against the Titans in Week 1, while Young threw two picks in a sluggish debut against the Falcons.
Who's poised to seize the Monday night lights? How can you tune in? Here's everything you need to know:
How to watch
- When: Monday, Sept. 18 | 7:15 p.m. ET
- Location: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)
- TV: ESPN | Stream: fubo
- Odds: Saints -3; O/U 39.5 (via SportsLine consensus odds)
Keys to the game
- Who can stop the Saints' downfield attack? Michael Thomas is still on the field, but more importantly, Carr has both Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed (201 combined yards) as big-play targets. Carolina, meanwhile, will be without top cover man Jaycee Horn for multiple weeks after he went down with a hamstring injury. That's a lot of pressure on C.J. Henderson.
- Can the Panthers protect Bryce Young? The rookie QB will be up against one of the NFL's best front sevens, headlined by rangy linebacker Demario Davis and longtime edge rusher Cameron Jordan. Right tackle Taylor Moton is battling through a biceps injury, and while the Panthers' front allowed just two sacks in Week 1, Young struggled to complete even 55% of his throws while working to avoid negative plays in the pocket. Extra blockers or a run-heavy script could be in order.
- How much can Brian Burns affect the game? The Panthers standout is doing his part to earn a big payday in a contract year, logging two sacks and a forced fumble against the Falcons in Week 1. Carr is prone as anyone to force a pass if he's facing serious heat, so Burns could easily be Carolina's best chance at leaving its home opener with a "W."
Raise your hand if you knew the Panthers left Week 1 as the fifth-best rushing team in football, based on production in their season opener. That's right; even in a lopsided loss to the Falcons, Miles Sanders, Chuba Hubbard and Young combined for close to 150 yards on the ground. It's one reason you might feel OK betting on a Carolina rebound in Charlotte. Certainly it's fair to expect Young to be at least a little better than he was against Atlanta (20-38, 146 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT).
But that's about where the hope runs dry when it comes to the home team here. Impressive as Young's intangibles may be, making him a promising new face of the franchise, he'll be up against an even stingier defense in this one, with Dennis Allen's club boasting more imposing starters at every level. Faced with Derrick Henry in Week 1, the Saints had little trouble. More than that, with Jaycee Horn sidelined, it's tough to envision C.J. Henderson and Donte Jackson keeping up with New Orleans' more explosive wideouts.
Divisional games are always tricky, and if there's a hidden reason the Panthers could pull off the upset, it probably lies with their defense, where Brian Burns and Derrick Brown have the ability to force Carr off rhythm. But after forcing three turnovers and surrendering just 15 points in their first outing, we're betting first on the Saints "D" against the first-year QB.
Score: Saints 27, Panthers 16
I like my pick for this game, but you might like Larry Harstein's better. He's our gambling guru over at SportsLine.com and he's been on roll with his Saints predictions, going 45-29 on his last 74 picks. If you want to check out Harstein's pick, you can do that here.