New Orleans Saints (1-1) at Carolina Panthers (0-2)
The Panthers are 0-2, but both of their losses have been very close, coming by a combined 5 points. In their 3-point loss to the Giants last week, they won the yards per play battle by 1.31 and the yards per play battle by 6.03%, only losing because of a -2 turnover margin, which is not nearly as predictive week-to-week as yards and first downs. Their offense only ranks 19th in efficiency, but that’s a significant improvement over last season, when they ranked 29th, as Baker Mayfield is at least somewhat of an improvement over last season’s quarterback situation.
Their defense, meanwhile, once again ranks among the best in the league in efficiency, again ranking 4th, a year after having the 4th ranked defense in efficiency across the 2021 season. They probably aren’t as good defensively as that suggests and they’ve faced a pretty easy schedule in terms of the offenses they’ve faced this season, but they’re at least an above average unit on that side of the ball, while their offense is much more of a complementary unit than it was a year ago. Despite their 0-2 start, the Panthers are likely to be a competitive team for most of the season, barring major injuries.
That being said, we’re getting good value with the Panthers as field goal underdogs at home against the Saints. New Orleans is a more talented team overall, but they’re a similar team to the Panthers in that they have a below average offense and an above average defense and, while the Panthers haven’t lost by more than a field goal yet this season, the Saints have yet to win by more than a field goal, struggling to beat the Falcons in Atlanta week 1. They could easily have even more trouble on the road against a better division foe in Carolina. My calculated line is even, so like getting the full field goal with the home team enough to bet on the Panthers. I don’t like them as much at +2.5, but the money line should be a good value regardless and even at +2.5 they would remain my pick for pick ‘em purposes.
Carolina Panthers 17 New Orleans Saints 16 Upset Pick +125
Pick against the spread: Carolina +3