New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (1-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-0)

Probably the most surprising week one result was the Saints not only upsetting the Packers as 3.5-point underdogs, but blowing them out by a final score of 38-3, the most lopsided result of the week. Unsurprisingly, that led to the biggest line movement shift of the week, with this line going from even on the early line last week to now favoring the Saints by 3.5 points on the road in Carolina, a big deal considering about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less.

The Packers were probably not going to be as good as last year and this roster has only gotten worse since the start of the season, with stud left tackle David Bahktiari beginning the year on the physically unable to perform list and dominant edge rusher Za’Darius Smith going on injured reserve after playing just 18 snaps in the opener, but the Saints didn’t look to be in good shape to start the season either, with top wide receiver Michael Thomas, top interior defender David Onyemata, and talented kicker Will Lutz all out for the start of the season, so it was a very surprising result, especially for a Saints team that normally gets off to a slow start anyway, going just 4-17-1 ATS in weeks 1 and 2 from 2010-2020, as opposed to 94-58-7 ATS in other weeks. 

The Saints won the turnover battle by 3 against the Packers, which is a very inconsistent metric week-to-week, but that win wasn’t just because of the turnover margin, as they won the first down rate battle by 10.62% and likely would have won by multiple scores even if they played turnover neutral football. However, it still worries me that the result of that game was more because of the Packers not showing up than the Saints actually still being a high level team despite key absences and off-season losses. 

We’re also getting significantly more line value with the Panthers as 3.5-point home underdogs than we were a week ago on the early line and the Saints’ injury absence situation has only gotten worse, with talented center Erik McCoy, defensive starters Marcus Davenport and Kwon Alexander, and top cornerback Marshon Lattimore all expected to be out this week as well. The Saints could also be flat after last week’s win, as teams are just 15-25 ATS over the past thirty years after a win by 21 or more as home underdogs of 3 or more, including 5-10 ATS as favorites and 2-6 ATS as road favorites.

Add in the Saints’ habitually slow starts (even last season when they beat the Buccaneers by 11 week 1, they turned around and lost week two in upset fashion against the Raiders by 10) and there is a strong case for taking the Panthers this week. I think the Panthers are a bit of an overrated team too and we’re not getting quite enough line value with them to bet them confidently, but they should be the right side and could easily catch the Saints off guard and pull the outright upset.

New Orleans Saints 19 Carolina Panthers 17

Pick against the spread: Carolina +3.5

Confidence: Low

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