Fresh off of a big post-season call last night with the Atlanta Falcons, we will turn our attention to the other intriguing NFC showdown featuring the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints. It always seems to be a bit more exciting when divisional rivals square off in the playoffs, and these two teams definitely know each other very well. The Saints emerged victorious in both regular season contests, and if they can make it a third time – a date with the Minnesota Vikings next week awaits.
The only reason the Panthers are where they currently are, is the play of QB Cam Newton. Since a slow first few weeks, the former Auburn star has been a beast – but he has admittedly struggled against New Orleans. The Saints have done a great job limiting him with their revamped defense, and that will certainly be another focal point here today. Please continue to read on below the odds for a full game breakdown, analysis, and a betting prediction for this NFC South wild-card showdown.
Panthers vs. Saints Betting Odds:
Carolina Panthers +6.5 (-110)
@ New Orleans Saints -6.5 (-110)
Over 47.5 (-110)
Under 47.5 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Panthers vs. Saints Pick:
The Saints certainly have to be pleased that they’re matched up for a third time against the same Carolina Panthers team they dominated in the regular season. Drew Brees threw all over their secondary and should be poised to do so once more come Sunday. In the two games combined, Brees went 47-of-64 for 489 yards and no interceptions. Those are scary numbers for Carolina’s porous secondary, but there’s really no reason to suggest he can’t do that again in the post-season.
Brees has gotten solid protection from the outset of the season, and with Carolina’s secondary being so poor in coverage – it’s a bad mix for the Panthers. Brees remains one of the most precise passers in the game, and has the ability to shred Carolina’s zone defense. Even on the ground, the Saints have had success against virtually everybody with their powerful two-pronged running game. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have been quite the duo this season, and even though Carolina has been stout against the run, Kamara still had his way with the Panthers back in Week 13. This run game is basically match-up proof, and I can’t see Carolina effectively limiting this Saints’ offense on Sunday.
On the other side of the football, the Panthers have some injury concerns which makes their chances even more slim. Key offensive lineman Trai Turner is banged-up, and though he is expected to play – you have to wonder about his effectiveness. Greg Olsen is also extremely talented, but just hasn’t been himself since returning from injury. He’s clearly still hurt – and I don’t think he’ll be much of an option in the passing game against New Orleans. Moving the chains will be difficult for the Panthers, as their run game is basically Cam Newton, and their passing game has very few options. Since trading away Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess hasn’t really stepped up – and besides, he’ll be blanketed by talented rookie Marshon Lattimore. Christan McCaffrey is dynamic, but he too has been limited against this highly-improved Saints’ stop unit. There will be a ton of pressure on Cam Newton, and as is typically the case, it’ll be up to the big QB to make the most of a bad situation.
This number has steadily risen throughout the week and I really agree with the movement. At home, and entering in much better form – the Saints are vastly superior to the Panthers. Brees and the Saints offense seems to match-up very well against what Carolina tries to do defensively, and that was evident in both regular season match-ups. I foresee more of the same for Sunday, and New Orleans takes this one in a rout.
PICK = Saints -6.5 (-110)