A week after the Saints were embarrassed at home against RG3 and the Redskins, they’ll travel to Carolina to take on a similarly talented quarterback in Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers. New Orleans is coming off of a tumultuous off-season filled with distractions surrounding their ongoing bounty suspensions. After looking abysmal on defense last week, this week won’t get any easier as they take their game outdoors against Carolina, a setting in which they’ve struggled in recent years.
Carolina meanwhile entered the season with extremely high hopes and were seen by many to be a dark-horse winner in the competitive NFC South. Last week’s performance however wasn’t the start they were looking for, as they were outclassed in every facet of the game against Tampa Bay. Carolina was supposed to have a much-improved defense, but that’s yet to be established. Hosting an angry Saints’ offense will certainly provide the Panthers with the test they’ve been looking for.
Saints vs. Panthers Spread and Betting Odds:
New Orleans Saints -2.5 (-110)
@ Carolina Panthers +2.5 (-110)
Over 51 (-115)
Under 51 (-105)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Saints vs. Panthers Pick:
It would be wise to expect a much better performance from New Orleans, but the Panthers should also be expected to raise their game in their home opener. Carolina watched a lot of film in the lead-up to this match and are aware of the domination RG3 handed the Saints. The fact that it was just Griffin’s very first game in the NFL, has to have the athletic Cam Newton licking his chops for Sunday. The Saints defense is easily penetrable and if their issues aren’t rectified, it could cost New Orleans a playoff position.
New Orleans has never started the season 0-2 and then gone on to finish with a winning record. Predicting which Saints team will show up however is a difficult proposition, especially when you consider the volatility of their defense. One positive for the Saints to carry over from a disappointing Week 1 was that their offense still appeared capable of putting up big numbers, despite not being entirely in sync. This is a Saints team that thrived last season against Carolina, putting up totals of 45 and 30 respectively. However, they’ll be facing a similarly explosive attack led by Cam Newton, along with a now healthy Steve Smith and Jonathan Stewart. You can’t help but wonder that if a rookie quarterback shredded this New Orleans defense, what could Cam Newton be capable of on Sunday?
Truthfully, it seems like the Over is the only logical decision in this match-up. Sure it’s a high total, but picking between these teams is really seems like a coin-flip proposition. Both defenses look abysmal and rank in the lower tier of the NFL, while their offenses are more than capable of putting up huge numbers. As of Saturday morning, the forecast appears primed for points and clear skies Sunday afternoon in Carolina and there’s no reason to assume both sides won’t replicate their games from last year. 45-17, and 30-27 were the score-lines of this match-up from 2011, and expect a similar style of game on Sunday.
Though picking a side in this contest is tough, it is however intriguing to note that home underdogs in their home-openers against divisional opponents are 10-2-1 against the spread since 2010. More impressively, those 10 underdogs have all gone on to win outright! Though it’s tough to back either side in this contest, this shows it will be a competitive encounter, and Carolina will be able to score enough points to keep pace with Brees and the Saints.
There’s also an intriguing historical element to this match-up dating back to Week 17 of last season when the Saints decided to leave in all their starters to accumulate more impressive statistics despite having nothing else to play for. This was done against a mostly injured Panthers line-up and to this date Carolina has yet to forgive them, with the Saints still showing no remorse. This is a factor to remember as neither team will take their foot off the pedal despite how lopsided this score-line could perhaps get.
Newton can move the ball easily on the ground, and shouldn’t have trouble picking apart a banged up Saints’ secondary
which includes Jabari Greer and Johnny Patrick, who are both questionable for New Orleans. Carolina’s defense however seems about equal in incompetence as their Sunday opponents. Aside from Charles Johnson, Carolina has virtually no pass-rush to speak of. Brees will have more time in the pocket against this pedestrian unit and should have his way with them. Fifty-one is a lot of points, but there’s going to be a lot of offense in what promises to be a back-and-forth rivalry clash.
PICK = Over 51 (-110)