Carolina Panthers (1-4) at New Orleans Saints (1-3)
The Panthers have had a rough start to their season to say the least. A year after losing just one regular season game en route to a Super Bowl appearance, the Panthers have started 1-4 and have a big uphill climb to even make the playoffs. In order to win 10 games, the Panthers now have to win 9 of their final 11 games. That being said, I wouldn’t rule that out. The Panthers still have one of the most talented rosters in the league, but have suffered bad luck early in the year. Three of their losses came against tough opponents in the Broncos (who they could have beaten if not for a missed field goal), Vikings, and Falcons, while their 4th loss came in a game in which they were without concussed quarterback Cam Newton and still had a shot to win despite a -4 turnover margin. Newton is back this week (as is running back Jonathan Stewart) and turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week to week basis. Teams that have a -4 turnover margin on average have a turnover margin of +0.1 the following week.
The Panthers are underrated coming into this game, as mere 3 point road favorites against a Saints team that is probably a bottom-10 team, especially without left tackle Terron Armstead, cornerback Delvin Breaux, and first round pick defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who are all injured. The Panthers aren’t quite as talented as they were last year, especially without cornerback Josh Norman, but them going 9-2 the rest of the way isn’t crazy. It’ll be tough, but just looking at their schedule, there’s only two games the rest of the way where they figure to be underdogs (@ Oakland and @ Seattle) if they stay healthy. They’re a talented team and could start a run to the playoffs with a big victory against an inferior Saints team in New Orleans. There’s not quite enough for me to put money on the Panthers, but that changes if the line falls under 3.
Carolina Panthers 31 New Orleans Saints 24
Pick against the spread: Carolina -3