Zaslal/a wh3171 10.2.2020 9:51
NEW ORLEANS -- This is what it has come to for the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers.Either they beat the Saints in the Superdome on Sunday, or they fall into last place in the NFC South by themselves with 10 games to go.You dont expect to start this way, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly said. Its a situation we are in now and its all about how youre going to respond from it.On its face, the matchup of the Saints (1-3) and Panthers (1-4) has the look of a game between two struggling teams who very well might be going nowhere this season.On the other hand, it could make for a desperate, high-stakes affair, given both teams are trying to salvage their season and believe it is still early enough to do so.Were not looking at them as a 1-4 team. Were looking at them as the returning NFC champions. We know that and just like when I was on a Super Bowl team, the next year, you get the best of every team, said Saints fullback John Kuhn, who played in the Super Bowl with Green Bay.This is two really good football teams going at each other. Throw the records out. Anybody watching this game is not going to be unsatisfied.Weve only played a quarter of the season, Kuhn added. Youve seen it in years past, especially with this division -- anything can happen. Weve got a lot of football left in front of us. So do they. It starts this week. We both understand whats going on.And its not as if either team has been on the wrong end of many lopsided scores. Both teams have each lost games by three points and one point. Those games came down to the final possession and a play here or there could have tipped the balance.The Panthers also played without star quarterback Cam Newton last Monday night against Tampa Bay and only lost on a last-second field goal.Newton, who had been held out because of a concussion, will play this week as the Panthers try to keep pace with the ever-prolific offense designed by Saints coach Sean Payton and executed by QB Drew Brees.We know the team were playing is a championship-level team that has lost some tough, close games, Payton said. Were going to have to be at our best.Here are some other story lines to watch as the Panthers invade the Superdome:NEWTONS NUMBERS: The Saints might be just what a struggling Newton needs. Newton, whose quarterback rating of 80.2 ranks 32nd in the league, often has played well against New Orleans, whose defense has been rated among the NFLs worst in three of the past four seasons and is again ranked 31st so far this season. Newton threw for 331 yards and five touchdowns last season at the Superdome and has 10 touchdowns and one interception in the past three games against New Orleans.HOPEFUL HISTORY: The Saints can look at their own franchise history for examples of why they still might emerge as playoff contenders -- if they can win this week. Under the current NFL playoff system, the Saints have twice made the playoffs after starting a season 1/3 -- once in 1990 and once in 2000.Were trying to be an ascending team -- a team that is trying to get better each and every week, Brees said. I feel like we have gotten better. We have learned and grown.WHERES THE RUSH?: Panthers starting defensive ends Kony Ealy and Charles Johnson have yet to register a sack this season through five games. Ealy said a major reason for that is opposing quarterbacks are getting the ball out quicker, giving the teams front four less time to get to the quarterback.Obviously quarterbacks are doing it for a reason, offensive coordinators are game-planning that way for a reason, Ealy said. They know what our front can do. It would be crazy for them to just be lax back there and know we are going to pressure with four or sometimes five guys. We see it as a sign of respect.GETTING DEFENSIVE: Although the Saints rank second-to-last in the NFL defensively, there have been signs of hope for the struggling unit. New Orleans ranks 13th in the NFL in red zone defense and tied for seventh in the league in limiting TDs on opposing offenses goal-to-go scenarios. Also, New Orleans much-maligned defense came up with a pair of fumble recoveries and an interception in the fourth quarter of their comeback win in their game at San Diego on Oct. 2. Now theyre rested after a bye last week.STEWARTS RETURN: The Panthers are hoping to get Jonathan Stewart back on the field after the teams starting running back missed the past three games with a hamstring injury. When healthy, Stewart is difficult to bring down and can be among the best running backs in the league. If Stewart cant go, the Panthers will turn to Cameron Artis-Payne, who ran for two TDs in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.---AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL Alan Page Jersey . LOUIS -- Cardinals cleanup hitter Allen Craig says hes recovered from a foot injury and ready to be put on St. Zeke Bratkowski Jersey . But the quarterback hopes to stay involved in football after officially calling it quits Tuesday. "Id love to look at those opportunities as they arise," Pierce said in an interview from his Winnipeg eatery. http://www.custombearsjersey.com/custom-riley-ridley-jersey-large-2436t.html .Y. -- Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Wednesday that J. Eddy Pineiro Jersey . -- Ryan Blaney provided more evidence that Penske Racings No. Link Lyman Jersey . Carey Price didnt, but he still came out on top against one of his rivals for the No. 1 job at the Sochi Games. The Anahim Lake, B.C., native was stellar in making 39 saves in his home province and Lars Eller got credit for a bizarre short-handed winner as the Canadiens defeated the Canucks 4-1. For as long as it has been played, the All-Star Game pits the best of one league against the best of the other. The demigods, with their crisp uniforms and perfect swings, perform under the lights with a certain grace and aura that few can ever hope to match. Its the Midsummer Classic, after all.But, as of Friday, thats all about to change.Enter 43-year-old marvel Bartolo Colon.Mets and National League All-Star manager Terry Collins named Colon to the team in place of Madison Bumgarner, who will be unable to pitch during the game because of a scheduled start Sunday for the San Francisco Giants.A fan favorite with a complicated history, Colon brings a lighthearted appeal to an exhibition game that tries to be taken seriously.So heres why you should be thankful that the pitcher known affectionately as Big Sexy will take the field Tuesday night in San Diego:1. Everybody loves Bart Theres no one in baseball right now who surpasses Colon when it comes to unconditional love -- from players and fans alike. Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez told ESPN.coms Kevin Van Valkenburg, I think everybody just loves Big Sexy. From his helmets continuous struggle to stay glued on his head while hes swinging and running, to his joyful reactions, Colon brings the one attribute that an All-Star Game needs most: fun.2. His stats dont matter In an era when almost everything in baseball is boiled down to numbers, Colon transcends stats. Sure, his 3.28 ERA is solid, as is his 7-4 record. Plus, Colon really uses only one pitch: a fastball, which he hurls almost 88 percent of the time, according to Fangraphs. So the numbers dont add up. He shouldnt be good. But he is. And thatss awesome.dddddddddddd3. Hes a human highlight real A big part of Colons appeal is his carefree approach to the game. For example, most people, and nearly all pitchers, would stop and make a conventional throw after fielding a ground ball. Colon? Nope. He prefers to flip the ball to first behind his back.Or, he might make a Willie Mays-esque basket catch. Any comebacker will be an adventure.4. Hes a hit Madison Bumgarner is the best-hitting pitcher in baseball. But if theres any ballpark where Colon can make up for the difference from the man hes replacing on the roster, its San Diegos Petco Park, where he has slugged .800 over his career -- OK, he has had only five at-bats there, but still a pretty cool number. Plus, he did this there: As for the possibility he gets an at-bat during the game, Colon played it coy, telling reporters Friday, I pray to God it doesnt happen. A refreshingly humble star. Perfect.5. (All-) Stars -- theyre just like us! At 43, Colon is the oldest player in the majors this season. The soon-to-be four-time All-Star made his first appearance in the game way back in 1998, when he managed to get the win despite giving up three earned runs. So how is he able to excel nearly two decades later? One reason may be his stretching routine, which seems to have little basis in scientific evidence and pays special attention to his all-important core. If and when Collins calls Colon into the game, hell be the third-oldest pitcher ever to take the mound in an All-Star Game, according to ESPN Stats and Info. ' ' '
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