Free Expert NFL Picks: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 10/29/2014
Remember in 2010 when the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record (won tiebreaker over Rams)? Many called that the worst division in a single season in NFL history. Umm, this year's NFC South might surpass it. I kid you not, I could see a 6-10 mark winning the south as Carolina (3-4-1) and New Orleans (3-4) battle for first in this week's Thursday night game -- only shown on the NFL Network, by the way.
The bottom of the division is putrid as the Falcons and Bucs have both hugely underachieved with a combined 3-12 record. So maybe getting to play those teams still a few times will get the Saints or Panthers to a .500 mark by the end of the year. New Orleans hosts Atlanta in Week 16 and is at Tampa for the finale. Carolina plays Atlanta twice (Week 11 at home, Week 17 at Georgia Dome) and hosts the Bucs in Week 15.
The problem is that New Orleans and Carolina are both really flawed. The Saints' defense has taken a step back, and New Orleans still can't win on the road. I could see the team going 8-0 at the Superdome again, however. Carolina's defense is nowhere near as good as last year's excellent unit, and the offense is rather predictable.
I thought New Orleans would win the division before the season, and thanks to the Superdome advantage I will stick with that. The Saints are -160 Bovada favorites to win the South, while the Panthers are +150 to be the first team ever to repeat in the South.
Saints at Panthers Betting Story Lines
In Week 8, the Saints looked like legitimate Super Bowl contenders, and to be fair three of the Saints' four losses just as easy could have been wins. New Orleans was a slight home favorite on Sunday night and throttled the red-hot Packers 44-23. Drew Brees had easily his best game of the season, completing 27 of 32 (84.4 percent) for 311 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't throw a pick for only the second game in 2014. Frankly, he had looked rather mortal at times this year.
It certainly helped Brees' cause that Mark Ingram was a beast, rushing 24 times for a career-high 172 yards. Ingram has been quite effective when healthy and finally is living up to his Heisman hype. Ingram will be the workhorse again here because backups Khiry Robinson (forearm) and Pierre Thomas (rib/shoulder) missed practice Tuesday and will sit out again Thursday. Star tight end Jimmy Graham continues to deal with a shoulder injury but played plenty against Green Bay.
The Panthers were home dogs Sunday against a Seattle team that was really going to play hard to avoid a rare three-game losing streak. The Panthers played valiantly but lost 13-9. Russell Wilson won it on a 23-yard touchdown pass with 47 seconds left. He had struggled all day but was 4-for-4 for 53 yards on the game-winning drive. Carolina managed only 266 yards, Cam Newton completed 12 of 27 for 121 yards (two turnovers), and rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin dropped a sure touchdown pass. The Panthers were inside the Seattle 20-yard line three times in the first half and scored six points. The Panthers have scored 12 touchdowns on 26 trips into the red zone all season. On the bright side, Carolina's defense came into the game having allowed at least 37 points in four of its last five games.
The Panthers will welcome back starting running back DeAngelo Williams on Thursday, and he will start. He has played in only two games and not since Sept. 28 at Baltimore. Jonathan Stewart was pretty solid vs. Seattle with 79 yards on 16 carries. It will still be a two-headed monster back there. Cats left tackle Byron Bell missed practice Tuesday but hopes to be ready Thursday. He did play Sunday but had to leave for a few plays. Right tackle Nate Chandler was limited in practice with a groin injury, but said he would be ready on Thursday.
As you would expect, both the Panthers and Saints won at home in this series last year in very different ways. In Week 12 at the Superdome, the Panthers gave up a season-high 31 points in an 18-point loss. That was Carolina's only regular-season defeat after Week 5. Two weeks later in Charlotte the Panthers won 17-13. Carolina had just 222 yards in that one but picked Brees off twice and sacked him six times. That win clinched a playoff berth and essentially the NFC South title for Carolina. It was also the game that Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly all but locked up the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award with a crazy 24 tackles along with a pick.
Saints at Panthers NFL Week 9 Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes, New Orleans is a 2.5-point favorite (-115) with alternate lines of 4 (+143), 3.5 (+135), 3 (+110), 2 (-120), 1.5 (-125) and 1 (-133). The Saints are -140 on the moneyline and Panthers at +120. The total is 48 points. New Orleans is 3-4 against the spread (1-3 on road) and 6-1 "over/under" (4-0 on road). Carolina is 5-3 ATS (3-1 at home) and 5-3 O/U (2-2 at home).
The Saints are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 after a win. They are 1-4 ATS in their past five vs. teams with a losing record and 0-4 ATS in the past four Thursday games. Carolina has covered seven of its past nine at home against teams with a losing road record. The Panthers have covered seven of their past nine against NFC South teams. The under is 6-2 in New Orleans' past eight after a win. The under is 10-2 in Carolina's past 12 vs. the NFC and 6-0 in past six against the NFC South. New Orleans is 1-5 ATS in its past six at Carolina. The under is 13-6 overall in the past 19 meetings.
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Picks and Betting Predictions
I am torn here. Do I fall into a possible trap believing that New Orleans found itself last week? Or was it just a Superdome thing in a prime-time game -- which the Saints never lose at home? I lean the latter. I think the Panthers win outright but may as well take the 3.5-point alternate line just in case. Go under. Rain won't be a factor but perhaps in high-to-mid 40s by kickoff.
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