CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Losing to the Buccaneers was one thing., they're easy to hate., but they're good.
One of the reasons the loss to the Panthers hurts so much is that even though the Panthers were clearly the better team Sunday, it's also clear Carolina is not gonna win a lot of games this season.
Losing to one of the NFL’s worst teams hurts, and three weeks in, the Saints have dug themselves a hole.
According to football outsiders, the Saints now have a 36% chance of making the playoffs.
The season is far from dead, but it's not looking great three weeks in.
Let's start our four takeaways with two guys who are killing it.
Chris Olave and Pete Werner were terrific on Sunday in Charlotte. Olave caught nine passes for 147 yards.
In three games, Olave has 268 receiving yards, which is the seventh best in the NFL.
There were 13 rookie receivers taken in the first two rounds of April's draft.
Olave is by far the most productive rookie wideout in the NFL.
Werner has been everywhere. He's tied for fourth in the NFL in total tackles through three games, and number one in solo tackles.
Werner and the defense are not the problem. The Panthers had six offensive points after three quarters.
The Buccaneers had three points after three quarters. You should win when the other team is not scoring.
At number three...
#3: Giving it away
Simply put, the Saints are giving it away.
Turnovers are football's great equalizer.
If you take it away more than you give it away, you're usually going to win.
The Saints were -3 against the Panthers. They're -6 on the season. That's the worst in the NFL.
Guess who leads the NFL in turnover margin?
It's surprising. The Jacksonville Jaguars lead the NFL at +7.
The top four teams in the turnover margin are a combined 9-3.
The bottom four teams, including the Saints, are 4-8.
To have any hope of turning their season around, the saints need to get out of this group.
At number two...
#2: The Quarterback Question
The quarterback question is coming.
Hurt in the win over Atlanta, Jameis Winston's numbers in each of the last two games have not been good.
He's now 26th in the NFL in quarterback rating, and I think the back injury is a huge part of that.
I think his willingness to run, or lack thereof, says it all. Last year, in the first three games of the season, Winston ran for six first downs.
This year, he's run for zero in the first three games. I think for the last two weeks, the back injury has changed how he plays, and not in a good way.
He's playing like a guy who's hurt and it's hard to win like that.
It might not be time to make a quarterback change yet, but the clock is ticking.
And at number one...
#1: Disorganized Mess
No sugar coating it. The Saints' offense was a disorganized mess Sunday.
Offensive penalties killed the first, fourth, and fifth drive of the Saints' first-half possessions.
In their first six possessions, they had ten second-down plays and ran it on eight of those ten. That's way too predictable, and they got zero first down on those runs.
They constantly gave themselves third-and-long.
And get this. They've already lost four fumbles in three games.
Last year, in 17 games, they lost five fumbles.
Their nine giveaways total are the most in the NFL. Last year, it was 18 giveaways in 17 games, sixth best at protecting the ball.
This year, the Saints are the worst at protecting the ball so far.
What you have is an offense with predictable playcalling and an injured quarterback that's killing itself with penalties and turnovers.
Oh, and they've given up the fourth most sacks in the league.
That's a lot to fix.
Back in 2017, the Saints were 1-2 when they got a season-changing win in London and won eight straight.
Let's pull for history to repeat itself.
And that's my four takeaways from the loss in Charlotte.