Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints: 2014 Week 14 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) at New Orleans Saints (5-7)

This line moved from 6.5 to 9.5 over the past week. Ordinarily, I hate going with huge line movements as they tend to be overreactions to one week (for example, Carolina getting blown out in Minnesota and New Orleans winning in Pittsburgh), but in this case I feel like all the line movement did was get this line more to where it should have been in the first place. The Saints have been underrated all season. They have a 2-5 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. They have a -7 turnover margin and a -3 return touchdown margin, both powered by a 42.31% fumble recovery rate that ranks 26th in the NFL. They could easily be 7-5 or better right now. In terms of rate of moving the chains differential, they rank 11th, moving the chains at an 80.65% rate, as opposed to 77.98% for their opponents, a differential of 2.67%. The Panthers, meanwhile, rank 26th, moving the chains at a 72.30% rate, as opposed to 75.53% for their opponents, a differential of -3.23%.

When you consider that, this line makes a lot more sense, especially when you take into account how good the Saints are at home. Sure, the Saints lost all 3 home games during their most recent homestand, but that doesn’t completely erase their recent history of home dominance. Prior to that, they had won 20 straight home games as long as they had both Sean Payton and Drew Brees. In their previous 23 home games with Payton and Brees, they are 18-4-1 ATS. Even this year alone, the Saints move the chains at an 82.03% rate, as opposed to 77.20% for their opponents, a differential of 4.83% at home. The Saints are also in a good spot with a trip to Chicago on deck, where they are projected to be 3.5 point road favorites. Teams are 89-60 ATS since 2012 before being 3+ point road favorites, including 57-34 ATS before being 4+ point favorites. The Saints have no upcoming distractions and can focus completely on the Panthers. This feels like a Saints blowout win.

There are two reasons why this isn’t a bigger play. One, the Panthers are in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 110-76 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 93-54 ATS when it’s their 2nd straight (and not 3rd straight) road game and they next play a home game. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 188-195 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.53 points per game, as opposed to 266-382 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.35 points per game. Two, teams are 74-56 ATS since 2002 as road underdogs on a 5+ game losing streak. Adding in the tie in Cincinnati, the Panthers haven’t won since week 5 and have one win since week 2. They’re the more desperate and embarrassed team. However, the Saints should still be the right side.

New Orleans Saints 27 Carolina Panthers 13

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -9.5

Confidence: Medium

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