Carolina Panthers (6-9) at New Orleans Saints (13-2)
This is one of several games this week that is unpredictable because of uncertainty about motivation. Saints head coach Sean Payton is at least giving lip service to playing his starters, but with the #1 seed in the NFC locked up it’s unlikely he’ll play his starters the whole game and the last time the Saints in 2009 were in this position their stars didn’t play at all. Drew Brees has already said publicly he doesn’t expect to play the whole game.
Backup quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill are good enough to still lead the Saints to a victory even if Brees and company barely play and the Panthers are could be fielding a skeleton crew as well, down to practice squader Kyle Allen under center, missing top defensive lineman Kawann Short and talented guard Trai Turner, and possibly resting other key players like stud feature back Christian McCaffrey in a meaningless game, but this line is pretty high at 7. I’m taking the Saints for pick ‘em purposes, but I’m not putting much time into handicapping a game with this kind of uncertainty.
New Orleans Saints 24 Carolina Panthers 16
Pick against the spread: New Orleans -7