Leading a team to a win is essential for an NFL quarterback. It gives confidence increases maturity. Unfortunately for rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen, that won't happen this week.
The Carolina Panthers go on the road to face the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. The Saints are coming off an overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons in a game they should have won. If not for a missed field goal in overtime, the Saints would be undefeated. The Panthers will now have to face the angry champions on their own turf.
Clausen will get the start against the Saints, and if last Sunday was any indicator, he's in for a rough outing. The wet playing conditions may have had something to do with it, but Clausen's passer rating at half time was 0.0. The Panthers were just lucky that they ran into a struggling Cincinnati Bengals offense. That was the only thing that kept them in the game. Four turnovers is a formula for losing though, no matter how the opposing team is playing.
The playing conditions will be perfect in New Orleans on Sunday. Whether that's good news or bad for the Panthers remains to be seen. In theory, Clausen should have a better game, but he's clearly not on the same page with receivers, as evidenced by the sideline tirade he had to endure from veteran receiver Steve Smith on Sunday.
One of his interceptions on Sunday was an ill-advised throw to a double covered Smith, so that sideline tongue lashing could end up doing more harm than good. If Clausen is intimidated by his own teammates into making bad throws, Sunday's Saints game could get ugly.
The good news for the Panthers, if there is any, is that the Saints have allowed an average of 145 yards per game on the ground. Although neither DeAngelo Williams nor Jonathan Stewart have had 100 yard games this season at running back, a yielding Saints rush defense could give either one of them their first chance. Ball control will be key for Panthers. The longer they can keep the ball out of Drew Brees' hands, the better chance they have to win. Easier said than done with the Super Bowl champs.
The reality is that even the Carolina Panthers would most likely concede that they aren't going to go into New Orleans and beat the Saints. They can make a statement though, and if Jimmy Clausen can have at least a decent game, that will sow the seeds for a run later in the season. However, if Clausen struggles as badly as he did against the Bengals, look for Matt Moore to come back in. Although benched in favor of Clausen on Sunday, he's done no worse this season and at least has some NFL experience. Clausen has only one start to his credit, and it was an unforgettable one.
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