Sportsbooks Have Saints Favored by 6.5
New Orleans Saints (11-2 SU, 10-3 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (6-7 SU, 5-8 ATS)
Date/Time: Monday, December 17, 8:15 PM EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
By Keith Allen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NO -6½ / CAR+6½ (Bovada Sportsbook)
Over/Under Total: 51½
Charlotte, North Carolina will be the site for the week 15 Monday Night Football match-up. The 11-2 first place Saints will be calling on the 6-7 Panthers in a battle of NFC South foes. Carolina has lost and failed to cover their last 5 contests and sportsbooks have made them 6½ point home underdogs, but the play is to take the home dogs and the points on MNF. Here is the handicap.
The Saints Have Slowed Down
New Orleans started off the year on fire. They scored 40 or more points and gained more than 400 yards in 6 of their first 10 games. They eclipsed 500 yards in 3 of those games. But in their last 3 games, Sean Payton’s squad has come back down to earth. They have average only 23 points and 270 yards in those contests. Although one of those games was against the stiff defense of the Cowboys, the other 2 were against the much softer Bucs and Falcons. Drew Brees is averaging only 157 passing yards in those games, and they have turned the ball over 4 times.
In the last 2 games that were both outside, New Orleans has totaled only 3 points in the first halves. Early in the year Payton’s team were starting fast and forcing to teams to play catch up but that hasn’t been the case the past few games. Tackle Terron Armstead has missed the last 4 games and is not expected back for this week’s game. The Saints are still an elite offense and Brees is still in the discussion for MVP, but this will their third consecutive outside road game. The Saints need some home cooking to get back to their high flying ways, but will have one more contest outside prior to returning to the Superdome.
Carolina’s Season in on the Line
The Panthers came into the season with expectations to compete for a championship, and just 5 weeks ago they sat at 6-2 and were 1 of the top teams in the league. After getting throttled by Pittsburgh in week 10, Ron Rivera’s team has lost 4 more games, but only by a total of 17 points. They now find themselves tied for the 7th spot in the NFC playoff race and just ½ game out of the playoffs. They basically have to win this week and their remaining 2 games and still get some help to have a chance at playing in January. In addition to the team having their back against the wall, Rivera is on the hot seat and could be coaching for his job. With new ownership in Carolina this year, Rivera needs to live up to pre-season expectations and make the playoffs or risk being fired after the season.
Over their last 4 games Carolina has averaged outgaining their opponents by over 80 yards and 6 first downs per game. Christian McCaffrey has arguably been the most productive running back in the league over the last 6 weeks. For the season he is 4th in the league in both touchdowns and yards from scrimmage. Cam Newton has had his best season as a passer this year completing just under 70% of his throws, but turnovers have been his undoing as he has tossed 7 interceptions during the last 4 games. Look for Cam to clean up the mistakes at home against a familiar opponent, and play a strong game.
Carolina Will Defend the House
Carolina is one of the many NFL teams that play better ball in front of their home town town fans. Four of their 5 games during this losing streak have been on the road, and now they get their next 2 games at home. The only home game during the 5 game losing streak was against the Seahawks that could have easily been a win except for a missed field goal in the final 2 minutes of the game. On the flip side, New Orleans is definitely a weaker team on the road. Brees and the Saints offense couldn’t get going in Dallas on Thanksgiving, and then didn’t get started until in the second half against Tampa.
This year Carolina is 4-2 ATS playing in Charlotte, and only 1-6 ATS on the road. There is also some value on the Panthers as the sportsbooks have continuously made New Orleans more expensive as the public is pounding them every week. With this being the Monday Night game, the Books know they will have a lot of exposure on the Saints and so the line is on the high side. Last week the Saints were laying 8 points to the Bucs in Tampa, but when Carolina played the Bucs 2 weeks ago in Tampa, Carolina was 3½ point favorites, implying the Panthers are 6 points better than the Bucs. This line should be closer to 3 or 4, but with all the action on the Saints and the recent losing streak of the Panthers, it is pushed up close to 7.
Play the Home Dogs
The Panthers are definitely live dogs for this Monday Night Football game. Look for Carolina to keep the game close and possibly win the game. Lay the 6½ points and play Carolina.