New Orleans Saints (3-4) at Carolina Panthers (3-4-1)
I’ve been high on the Saints this whole season, picking them to win the Super Bowl before the season and not really wavering from that a ton even as they got out to a 2-4 start. That 2-4 start was largely a result of starting the season with 4 of 6 on the road, a significant injury to Jimmy Graham (which he’s over now), a -8 turnover margin and a -3 return touchdown margin fueled by an 18.18% rate of recovering fumbles, and 3 losses by a combined 6 points. They were legitimately a few plays away from being 5-1.
Last week, they got Graham back and were able to beat a very good Packer team by 21 back at home, winning the turnover battle by 2. Now they’re legitimately a few plays away from being 6-1. However, now they have to go back on the road, which hasn’t been nearly as kind to them over recent years. While they are 18-1-1 ATS at home over their last 20 home games with Drew Brees and Sean Payton, winning all 20 of those games by an average of about 19.6 points per game, they are 3-11 ATS on the road over the past 2 seasons.
I wish the Saints were still underdogs as they were with the early line last week (Carolina -1.5), as Drew Brees is 6-8 ATS as road underdogs since 2010, as opposed to 8-17 ATS as road favorites. That also would have opened up a significant trend as the Saints will be home favorites next week for San Francisco, while the Panthers will be road underdogs next week in Philadelphia (teams are 57-96 ATS since 2010 as home favorites before being road underdogs when their opponent will next be home favorites).
I hate going with huge line movement like this one (-1.5 to +2.5), but it’s all within the field goals so it’s not as big of a concern. This line is also more than justified as the line movement is simply catching up to how good the Saints have been all season. The Saints rank 6th, moving the chains at an 81.30% rate, as opposed to 78.08% for their opponents, a differential of 3.22%. The Panthers, meanwhile, rank 23rd, moving the chains at a 74.10% rate, but allowing opponents to move them at a 77.04% rate, a differential of -2.94%. That suggests the Saints should be favored by at least a field goal. On top of that, home underdogs in night games are 30-58 ATS since 1989. The Saints should be the right side, but I can’t be confident in them on the road.
New Orleans Saints 31 Carolina Panthers 27
Pick against the spread: New Orleans -2.5