New Orleans Saints (4-5 SU, 4-3-1 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (3-5 SU, 2-6-1 ATS)
NFL Football Week 11
Date/Time: Thursday, November 17 at 8:25pm ET
Where: Bank of America Stadium
by Evergreen, Pro Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NO +4/CAR -4
Over/Under Total: 51
Primetime games in 2016 have gone pretty much like everything else in 2016. If you missed it so far, 2016 has been pretty rough and so have the majority of Thursday, Sunday and Monday Night games, unless you like blowouts or 6-6 ties, of course. The matchup on this Thursday Night could reverse the trend of mostly unwatchable games as New Orleans has a date in Carolina. The Saints have one of the best offenses in the NFL and the Panthers have the uniquely talented Cam Newton. Throw in two desperate teams playing a division game and we at least get the potential for a solid game overall. Both teams are behind the eight ball in terms of playoff positioning but a win keeps some hope alive in a very average division and conference for that matter. Carolina got the better of both matchups last year but both games were close and there were plenty of points scored. Someone is going to go home Thursday night on the wrong side of a loss that probably ends their season, unless we get another tie, I guess.
Carolina has had a hard time answering the bell after their Superbowl season but the online betting sites like them as four point favorites. New Orleans, normally a much less effective road team, has played well as the visitor this season, going 4-0 against the spread and 5-0 ATS as the underdog. Carolina has a 2-5 ATS record as the favorite this season and are just 1-4 against the spread at home. The most troubling part of the Panthers poor start has been their 1-4 straight up record against Top-16 teams. New Orleans is 3-5 against the top half of the league but they can at least lean on the 7th hardest schedule to explain part of their 4-5 record. ESPN’s power rankings give Carolina a 63.8% chance of winning which is actually a pretty close shave when you think about it and certainly makes sense with the modest point spread.
It was absolute heartbreak for the Panthers last week. Carolina held Kansas City in check for the entire day, allowing zero touchdowns and building a 17-0 lead. They could not handle the prosperity however as a Kelvin Benjamin fumble followed a Newton pick-six and it was all over after Cairo Santos hit his fourth field goal of the day. The only worse than that last week was the end scenario for New Orleans. The Saints battled the Broncos tooth-and-nail for four quarters and looked like they would secure a win after a Drew Brees to Brandin Cooks touchdown with less than three minutes left. Almost inexplicably, Wil Lutz had his PAT blocked and Denver was able to return that all the way for a two point score of their own and the game ended 25-23. They say that a quick turn-around often helps a team after a bad loss, so at least these guys have that going for them.
One of the easiest things to focus on for this one is the pure proficiency of the New Orleans passing game. Drew Brees and his seemingly endless supply of pass targets represent the best passing unit in the game in terms of yardage and that has helped the Saints to 29.4 points per game. The running game behind Mark Ingram is solid as well but the Saints go as Brees goes. The defense has really been the Achilles heel for New Orleans, ranking dead last in passing yards allowed and 3rd worst in points per game surrendered at nearly 30 per game. I think it’s fair to say that New Orleans should be able to throw on a Carolina defense that is just 24th against the pass but can the Saints hold Newton down for most of the night. New Orleans has put its opponents in pass situations often this season so some of their pass defense woes come by way of seeing so many attempts. They will be happy to see Carolina forced to throw in this one as it will mean they have a pretty big lead.
Carolina has not found its way into the consistent offense it did through most of last year. The Panthers are basically league average across the board in yards and points and not having the diverse and effective running game they did has hurt their efficiency. Cam Newton has thrown for just ten touchdowns against seven interceptions and doesn’t have a reliable target outside of tight end Greg Olsen. Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess look the part of the matchup problem but the opposing defenses have not needed to worry about the Panther passing game on an every down basis. That has made it a little easier to bottle-up Newton and that has put pressure on the defense. That D has mostly responded, especially in stopping the run but the free agent loss of Josh Norman has left the secondary exposed. Carolina is a good pass rushing team with seven different defenders with multiple sacks. The team has 26 total sacks but they have given up big plays when they don’t get to the quarterback. Brees is a master at getting the ball out quick and should be able to use the quick-hitters to Cooks and Willie Snead. Carolina is giving up 25.1 points per game, a total they will probably do well to keep New Orleans to.
The injury reports a little vague given the Thursday game but both teams are dealing with depth issues common for this time of year. Carolina has a problem if neither center Ryan Kalil or Gino Gradkowski can answer the bell. Jonathan Stewart is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry as it is and won’t be helped by a shuffled offensive line.
I understand that the Superdome means so much for New Orleans and the way they want their offense but I think this game will be fast paced away from Bourbon Street. Maybe not the 41-38 score we saw in Week 6 but I think each team is a near shoe-in for three touchdowns a piece. New Orleans might not be able to stop anyone but the offense is operating better under that circumstance than they have in years past. Having Cooks, Snead, Michael Thomas and Coby Fleener all see success at different points this year has made the Saints a tough matchup for a secondary. If Mark Ingram and the running game chip in, then New Orleans can beat anyone anywhere. There is just enough going wrong in Carolina to keep Cam from being the deciding factor this season. Blowing the 17-point lead to the Chiefs was a low point and I don’t think they bounce back well on short rest. The Saints are flawed but they can play last week off as they very nearly beat the defending Super Bowl champs and their offense worked well against a Broncos defense that is probably better than what Carolina will bring to the table. I like the Saints for a straight-up win here so I’m certainly comfortable taking them with the four points. I think they get a field goal win, something in 27-24 range.
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New Orleans
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