By John DeShazier | Senior Writer - NewOrleansSaints.com
The early bye week possibly came at a fortuitous time for the New Orleans Saints.
Several bodies needed the rest, recovery and rehabilitation, and the Saints (3-2) needed to iron out a few wrinkles before entering their season-ending 11-game marathon, beginning with Sunday's game against Carolina (3-3) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
There should be a quick indication in the game of how much the Saints improved and shored up during the break. The Panthers likely will be a stern test.
Here are a few keys to the game:
- GROUNDED: The Saints aren't exactly ground-and-pounders when it comes to the running game, but that doesn't mean they can't do it. Against the Lions, in a 35-29 win, New Orleans had 42 attempts for 164 rushing yards and three touchdowns, significantly above the team's season averages of 28 attempts and 115 rushing yards per game. The reason to mention this is because the Panthers allow 121.7 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. Alvin Kamara (281 yards, 4.6 per carry) and Latavius Murray (218 and 4.2) could have busy days for the Saints as runners.