1. THE NEXT MILESTONE. New Orleans Saints quarterback
2. BOUNCE BACK GAME. The Saints are 9-3 and haven’t lost consecutive games this season. But did you know that with Sean Payton as head coach – last season notwithstanding; he was suspended – the Saints haven’t lost consecutive regular-season games since they dropped the final three in 2009, after they’d sprinted to a 13-0 record and already had clinched home-field advantage in the NFC throughout the playoffs? That means New Orleans has shown an ability to rebound after a loss. And that’s a trend it’ll want to keep intact against the Panthers.
4. CAN CAM. This one is a little easier said than done. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton annually has given the Saints' defense fits, and he could be in the best groove of his NFL career. During Carolina’s eight-game winning streak, Newton has completed 153 of 239 passes (64 percent) for 1,731 yards and 13 touchdowns, with six interceptions. He also has run 62 times for 324 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. The Panther offense begins and end with Newton, and the Saints' defense had trouble with a quarterback (Seattle’s Russell Wilson) who owns a similar skill set physically. The defense hasn’t lost confidence and believes its mistakes against Wilson can be corrected. Newton will test it.
5. BRING THE NOISE. Saints fans weren’t all that receptive last week to the notion that Seattle’s fans, nicknamed The 12th Man, received accolades for being among the most vocal in the league. The 12th Man, in fact, set a record for decibel level at an outdoor sports facility. Saints fans, meanwhile, not only questioned whether Seattle was as vocal as they are, but seemed pretty eager to show what they can do. Seattle, Kansas City or some other outside venue always will hold the record for highest decibel level at an outdoor facility over Saints fans, because the Dome is an indoor place. But figure on Carolina having a hard time hearing on offense Sunday night; there’s some pent-up frustration that probably will be unleashed by the home crowd.