Monday Night Football Predictions: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
It's the penultimate Monday night game of the 2018 season this week as the Saints visit the Panthers in NFC South action. Enjoy this one, because the MNF finale in Week 16 is meaningless: Broncos at Raiders.
I'm quite certain that New Orleans and Carolina are setting some sort of NFL record here. Of course, teams in the same division play each other twice a season. Never heard of two clubs playing back-to-back weeks in the regular season so this, then, would have to be the latest ever two division teams do play for the first time in a season.
The Saints (11-2) already have clinched the NFC West but still have designs on the top seed in the conference. In this writer's opinion, no team is winning in New Orleans in the playoffs, so that would be huge. I also don't think any team is going to the Rams and winning. The Saints would win any head-to-head tiebreaker. They close home vs. Pittsburgh and Carolina. A win here (or tie) and Bears loss at home Sunday earns New Orleans no worse than the No. 2 seed.
Carolina (6-7) looked like a legit Super Bowl contender at 6-2, but the wheels have fallen off, and Coach Ron Rivera is on a scorching-hot seat under a new ownership group. Hey, if you pay $2.4 billion for a team, you probably want to choose your own coach. The Panthers sit seventh in the NFC, a game back in the loss column of No. 6 Minnesota and currently winning tiebreakers with fellow 6-7 teams Philadelphia (which probably loses Sunday at the Rams) and Washington (which probably loses Sunday at the Jaguars).
If you are wondering, Carolina and Minnesota didn't play, and they aren't likely to end up tied because the Vikings have a tie on their record. The Panthers win a tiebreak with the Eagles but lose ones to Redskins and Seahawks (that one likely not coming into play).
Saints at Panthers Betting Story Lines
I've read some reports that Carolina could be the most coveted head coaching opening this winter if it does come available because of the new owner, a franchise quarterback and a part of the country that people prefer to live in (warmer, lower taxes, which also helps draw free agents). Would you rather coach in Charlotte under an owner with mega-deep pockets or Green Bay with that wacky ownership structure?
Carolina's five-game skid started in Pittsburgh, and there's nothing wrong with losing there (although there is 52-21). The Panthers could have won any of the next four: at Detroit (20-19, Newton missed a wide-open receiver on a potential winning 2-point conversion); vs. Seattle (30-27, Graham Gano missed late field goal and Seahawks didn't); at Tampa Bay (24-17); and last week at Cleveland (26-20, Newton missed wide-open receiver for potential winning TD).
There's no question Newton has regressed of late amid reports he's playing through a fairly significant shoulder injury. He has been picked at least once in each of the five-game skid and hasn't done much on the ground other than vs. the Seahawks. Gano missed crucial kicks vs. the Seahawks and Lions (FG and PAT).
It's not easy to play well every week in the NFL. The Saints, of course, had a 10-game winning streak, the longest in the league this year, but haven't looked the same since. They were offensively inept in a 13-10 loss in Dallas in Week 13 and then trailed 14-3 at the half last week in Tampa but outscored the Bucs 25-0 in the second half. If that's about 25 other teams, the Saints lose again (they probably do if Taysom Hill doesn't block a punt that changed everything).
Drew Brees, so good the first 11 games, has thrown for a total of 328 yards, two TDs and two picks over the past two as he probably has lost his first-ever NFL MVP Award to Patrick Mahomes. New Orleans isn't deep at all at receiver behind Michael Thomas, and that could play a part in all this. Rookie Tre'Quan Smith seems to be all or nothing. Dez Bryant was signed and then injured before he took the field. The Brandon Marshall experiment ended on Wednesday before he ever played in a game. There could be help on the way at some point in Ted Ginn as he's a candidate to return from injured reserve. Ginn has not played since Week 4.
Saints at Panthers Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , New Orleans is a 7-point favorite (+120) with a total of 51.5. On the moneyline, the Saints are -255 and Panthers +215. On the alternate lines, the Who Dats are -6.5 (-102), -6 (-110) and -5.5 (-117). New Orleans is 10-3 against the spread (6-1 on road) and 5-8 "over/under" (2-5 on road). Carolina is 5-8 ATS (4-2 at home) and 7-6 O/U (5-1 at home).
The Saints are 4-0 ATS in their past four vs. teams with a losing record. They are 2-5 ATS in their previous five on Monday. The Panthers are 5-2 ATS in their past seven vs. teams with a winning record. They are 8-3 ATS in their previous 11 at home. The under is 5-2 in New Orleans' past seven after a win. It's 4-0 in the Panthers' past four in December. The underdog is 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 7-1 in those.
Saints at Panthers Betting Prediction
New Orleans handed Carolina half its six total losses last year, ending the Panthers' season with a 31-26 home win on Wild-Card Weekend. The Panthers did nearly stage a nice rally, though. The game in Charlotte was a 34-13 win in Week 3.
Is Carolina as good as New Orleans? Nope. This probably wouldn't be close in the Superdome, but I'm taking the points and think the Panthers actually win outright. They HAVE to, and have been largely excellent at home, while the Saints know they have wiggle room. Go under the total.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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