Key Match-ups and Injuries

Get the lo-down on the key matchups between the Panthers and Saints, and what injuries could change the outcome of this pivotal game.

Panthers WR Steve Smith vs. Saints CB Mike McKenzie
Look for McKenzie to draw some single coverage on Smith, who had eight catches for 138 yards and a touchdown in the last game against the Saints. If the Saints single cover Smith, then Jake Delhomme will try to take advantage of that matchup all day long since nobody has been able to cover him one-on-one this entire season.

McKenzie is the Saints' best cover corner and he'll have to be at the top of his game against Smith, who leads the NFL in both receptions (87) and receiving yards (1,329). Smith also has 10 touchdowns, so not letting him go crazy will be a key for the Saints' fifth-ranked pass defense.

Saints RT Jammal Brown vs. Panthers LDE Julius Peppers
Brown made his NFL debut against Peppers in the season opener and did a nice job in not allowing the speedy pass rusher to get anywhere near Aaron Brooks most of the day. Peppers will remember how Brown kept him away and likely will have something special in store for the Saints' first-round draft pick, who is a strong candidate for the All-Rookie team.

Saints WR Joe Horn vs. Panthers CBs Chris Gamble and Ken Lucas
Horn has had lots of success against the Panthers over the years with three 100-yard games and nine touchdowns in 10 games against them since joining the Saints in 2000. Horn isn't having a great year by any stretch of the imagination, but he seems to elevate his game when going against the Panthers.

INJURY IMPACT

RB DeShaun Foster (shoulder), CB Ken Lucas (shoulder) and MLB Dan Morgan (ankle, shoulder) all practiced Wednesday and are currently listed as probable for Sunday's game.

That's good news for the Panthers, who lost Foster and Morgan for significant periods of time due to injuries last Sunday against Tampa Bay.

However, DE Mike Rucker (ankle) and TE Michael Gaines (ankle), both of whom missed the Tampa Bay game, did not practice and are listed as questionable.

The Saints could have some big problems if C LeCharles Bentley, LG Kendyl Jacox and LT Wayne Gandy aren't able to suit up against the Panthers' aggressive defensive line.

The Saints have only eight offensive linemen on their 53-man roster, so their depth would be stretched to the max if all -- or even any -- of them can't play Sunday.

Bentley, who has an elbow injury, and Jacox, who has a knee problem, are powerful drive blockers and are considered keys to the team's running game. G Jamar Nesbit has some NFL experience at center and Jermane Mayberry can help out at guard.

The only other tackle on the roster, besides Gandy and right tackle Jammal Brown, is first-year player Ben Archibald. If Gandy can't play, Nesbit could be used at tackle if Bentley can go.

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