Carolina Panthers (8-3) at New Orleans Saints (8-3)
The Saints had their 8-game winning streak snapped last week in Los Angeles. The Rams are a tough opponent and the Saints were missing their top-2 cornerbacks, Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley, so it wasn’t a huge shock, especially since the Rams were home favorites. The Saints return home this week, but they have another tough matchup with the Panthers coming to town. They also still have injury issues. While Crawley is expected to return, the Saints will be missing talented rookie safety Marcus Williams and pass catching tight end Coby Fleener, while Lattimore and left tackle Terron Armstead are questionable after being limited in practice all week this week.
Making matters worse, the Saints have to turn around and play an even tougher game in Atlanta on 4 days rest on Thursday Night Football next week. That might mean the Saints hold out either Lattimore and/or Armstead with the intention of them being 100% for the Atlanta game, but even if both play the Saints are still in a terrible spot with that game on deck. Favorites are 64-95 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football and divisional home favorites are just 24-62 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road underdogs. Both of those trends are very much in play here.
The Panthers have a tough game next week too, as they face the Vikings, but at least that game is at home in Carolina and on normal rest. The Panthers are favored by 3 in that one on the early line, while the Saints are 3 point underdogs in Atlanta. Underdogs are 67-41 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. That trend is not quite as relevant as the two aforementioned trends because Carolina’s next upcoming game isn’t easy, but there’s no denying that the Panthers enter this game in a much better situation schedule wise.
The Saints beat the Panthers 34-13 in Carolina back in week 3, but that was when Cam Newton was still working his way back from off-season shoulder surgery. The Panthers also didn’t have either center Ryan Kalil or tight end Greg Olsen in that one and both could play this week, though they might not be 100%. Teams tend to avenge on divisional home upsets anyway, as divisional road underdogs are 66-37 ATS since 2002 in regular season, same season revenge games against a team that previously pulled an upset against them. These two teams aren’t far off in talent, so it makes sense that the Panthers would at least come close to evening the season series this week, especially since the Saints could overlook them a little bit, given that they’ve already beaten them and that they have another big game in 4 days.
All of that being said, I wish we were getting a better line than Carolina +5. That’s about what I have this one calculated at, so we aren’t getting any real line value with the Panthers. The Saints are banged up, but they are the better team, as they rank 3rd in first down rate, while Carolina ranks 11th. The Saints’ 8 victories have all come by more than a touchdown, while just 3 of Carolina’s have. The Panthers still worth a bet because of the terrible spot the Saints are in and they should be able to keep this within a field goal or so, but this is just a medium confidence pick. I will upgrade this to a high confidence pick if the line shoots up to 6 before game time or if either Lattimore or Armstead are ruled out.
New Orleans Saints 23 Carolina Panthers 20
Pick against the spread: Carolina +5