Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Carolina Panthers (3-4 SU, 2-5 ATS) vs. New Orleans Saints (7-0 SU,
6-1 ATS), Week 9 NFL, 4:05 p.m. EST, Sunday, November 8, 2009, Louisiana
Superdome, New Orleans, La., TV: FOX

by Badger of

Point Spread: Panthers +13.5/Saints -13.5
Over/Under: 52

The New Orleans Saints will try and remain as the NFCs lone
remaining undefeated team when they host their NFC South Division
rival Carolina Panthers in the Superdome on Sunday.

The Saints stayed perfect on the season with a 35-27 victory over
their other South Division rival, the Atlanta Falcons, on Monday
Night Football last week. The Saints struggled at times against the
Falcons, including a sloppy end-of-the-game sequence that gave
Atlanta life, but their resurgent defense intercepted a Matt Ryan
pass at the goal line and quarterback Drew Brees cashed it in with a
coffin-nailing score to keep the Saints atop the standings in the NFC.

The Panthers are coming off of a momentum-building victory of their
own when they went into the desert last Sunday and handed the Arizona
Cardinals a 34-21 beatdown. The Panthers defense intercepted Kurt
Warner five times while the offense compiled 270 yards on the ground
to power past the Cards and move one game closer to .500 on the season.

Just like last week the oddsmaker in Las Vegas has been forced to
raise the point spread for Saints games to unheard of levels, opening
the game with New Orleans as gigantic 14.5-point favorites. The
number has adjusted down slightly to its current level of 13.5 at a
majority of the offshore sportsbooks, but there are still plenty of
books with the number still at 14, so even the large spreads cant
get the public (squares) off of the Saints.

The over/under total opened at 52 and has moved slightly down to 51.5
at a few books (with one 51 at the Hard Rock), but for the most part
the number has held firm at 52 during early action at the window.

It no coincidence that the Panthers won last week when they finally
decided to do what the do best on offense pound the ball over and
over again with the running game. DeAngelo Williams ran for 158 yards
and Jonathan Stewart added 87 yards and two touchdowns as the
Panthers two-headed backfield carried the ball 44 times and dominated
the Cardinals.

The Panthers renewed running attack also helped them own a five
minute advantage in time of possession, and kept the ball out of the
hands of quarterback Jake Delhomme, whos troubles this season have
been well documented. Delhomme only threw the ball 15 times, and was
knocked out of the game late with a chest injury, but hes listed as
probable for this week.

What else needs to be said about the Saints offense this season that
hasnt already been covered? Drew Brees has full command of the
playbook, coach Sean Peyton has an uncanny ability to call the right
play at the right time, and with a deep roster of weapons the Saints
are virtually unstoppable even when they have multiple turnovers
(four turnovers in each of the last two weeks).

On defense something is going to have to break, because both teams
are well equipped to stop the opposing teams offensive strengths.

Carolina is ranked No. 1 in the NFL against the pass, allowing just
160.6 yards per game in the air, but they have yet to face the aerial
attack the Saints bring to the table every week. The Panthers do give
up yards on the ground though (127.6 ypg 24th) and also give up a
ton of big plays which often times turns into points on the board
(23.7 ppg 23rd).

Meanwhile, the Saints are the leagues 11th best unit against the run, holding opponents to 102.1 yards per game. They are give up
their share of big plays (22 ppg 20th), but they also create as
many of their own as they have already returned five interceptions
for touchdowns including another one last week against the Falcons.

Will this finally be the year the Saints redeem themselves against
the Panthers, since the Cats have owned the boys from New Orleans in
recent years.

Carolina swept the season series last year, winning at the Superdome 33-31 in late December, which for all intents and purposes knocked
the Saints out of the playoff picture last season. Carolina has won
six of the last seven games head-to-head and are 7-3 SU going back to
the end of the 2004 season.

The Panthers have also covered the point spread in four of the last five as well (including both last year), but they were only the
underdog in one of those five games and have never been larger than a
touchdown dog in any of their head-to-head games in the last 10 games.

If recent betting trends hold true, then the Panthers are the logical
play in this game Sunday. In the last 17 head-to-head games the road
team sports a cash-machine like 15-2 ATS record.

The under is also following a strong trend, going 7-2 in the last
nine meetings, but the two games that came in over the total during
that span were both played in the Superdome, so take that stat for
what its worth.

Badgers Pick: The Panthers have huge holes in their defensive line,
which is why they are so weak against the run. I expect the Panthers
to try and continue to grind it out on Sunday as well. All those
handoffs means a running clock, which makes this game the best
opportunity to keep the Saints from lighting up the scoreboard like a
pinball machine. Im taking my chance on the under here. Take the
under of 52.