The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers tied for first place in the NFC South last year. Already, they are facing significant hurdles.
Last year, everything seemed to go right for the New Orleans Saints. There were very few injuries, almost the entire draft class produced immediately, and Drew Brees was able to fight off Father Time once more.
In Carolina, the Panthers also found success, although the path wasn’t as linear. Kelvin Benjamin was shipped to the Buffalo Bills and tight end Greg Olsen missed ample time with a broken foot. Luke Kuechly also dealt with a concussion, but the Panthers managed to go 11-5 before losing to the Saints in the NFC Wild Card round.
This offseason, however, has been unkind to both teams. In April, word came down that linebacker Thomas Davis was suspended four games for a violation of the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy, putting the Panthers in a tough spot. Only a month later, Saints running back Mark Ingram was found to be in the same position, putting undue stress on second-year back Alvin Kamara.
Then, on Thursday, it was announced that the Panthers will be without Fozzy Whittaker for the entire 2018 season after tearing his ACL in a non-contact drill. Without Whittaker, the Panthers lose their depth in the backfield and a key piece. At 29 years old, Whittaker provides talent to both the offense and special teams.
With the Atlanta Falcons looming, the Panthers and Saints are looking at a tough road following some brutal breaks over the winter and early spring. If New Orleans or Carolina plans to return to the playoffs, it’ll need to overcome adversity from the jump.