Sunday’s battle between the Panthers and the Saints is for the lead in the NFC South. Both teams come into this game tied at 8-3. The winner will have sole position at the top of the division, while the loser will fall to 2nd place and have to contend with the surging Atlanta Falcons. Carolina comes into this game looking to avenge their Week 3 loss to New Orleans. The Saints look to rebound from their loss in LA last weekend. Kickoff inside the Super Dome is at 4:25 PM ET.
Over the last 10 head-to-head games, Carolina holds a 6-4 record against the Saints. The Panthers have won 4 of the last 6 games between these two teams. As mentioned, the Saints won their matchup earlier this year by crushing the Panthers in Carolina 34-13.
Carolina (8-3) has won 4 straight games and holds a 5-1 record on the road. This will be the first major test for Carolina over the last 6 weeks. Their winning streak has come against inferior teams like the Jets, Dolphins and Bucs. They did also gain a big division win over the Falcons too. During this streak, Carolina has rediscovered their running game, which has opened up the play action and passing attack. Can the Panthers extend their winning streak to 5 games?
New Orleans (8-3) just had their 8 game winning streak last weekend by the Rams. They come home to where they have a 4-1 record on the season and look to sweep the Panthers in 2017. The Saints look to get back to their winning ways and rebound this weekend. They definitely have the talent to put last weekend’s loss behind them.
The spread opened with the Saints favored by 3.5 points. It currently sits at 4.5 points in favor of New Orleans. The Over/Under opened at 47.5 points and has gone up slightly to 48 total points.
A big part in the Saints 26-20 loss last weekend was that they were without their top 2 corners. But, that will change this weekend as rookie sensation Marshon Lattimore should return to the lineup. This will definitely help the Saints in what should be a very physical battle.
Both teams will look to establish a running game in order to balance out their offense. The Saints are near the top in the NFL with 142.1 rushing yards per game and will try to run against a Panthers defense that allows only 83 ypg. Carolina is not far behind the Saints in rushing the ball as they average 129.2 ypg. The Saints allow 112.9 ypg and this could be a big advantage for Carolina this weekend.
The Panthers need to pound the ball with their three-headed monster: McCaffrey, Stewart and Newton. If the Saints don’t contain Cam, he will make them pay dearly. Cam has been running the ball more during this winning streak and he could take over a game by himself if given the chance.
Through the air, the Saints are much better on offense than the Panthers. New Orleans averages 275.4 yards per game and Carolina averages 219.7 ypg. The Saints will need to capitalize on this advantage as I don’t think they will be able to be as successful on the ground as their season numbers show. In fact, I expect Carolina to really shut down the Saints rushing offense and then contend with Drew Brees and his receivers. I’m not sure if Carolina can win this game outright, but I do believe that they will keep it within the 4.5 point spread.
The last 3 times these two teams have played in New Orleans, the Panthers went 2-1 and the one game the Saints did win, it was by 3 points. I expect it to be another close game in the Super Dome.
Carolina is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games, 7-1 ATS in their last 8 road games, and 12-4 ATS in their last 16 games in New Orleans. The Saints are 4-6 ATS in their last 10 games during Weeks 10 through 13. The Underdog is 6-0 ATS in their last 6 head-to-head meetings.
What I see happening in this one is Carolina playing much better defense against the Saints than Week 3. I also believe that Cam was still getting back into football shape during their first encounter, but this week he will play like Super Cam. I expect Cam to have at least 250 passing yards, 50 rushing yards and 3 combined touchdowns. I also see McCaffrey making his mark on this game out of the backfield catching the ball. I am excited to see who does better in the battle of rookie running backs: McCaffrey or Kamara.
Carolina will need to put pressure on Brees to prevent the Saints offense from passing all over them. Conversely, the Saints will need to contain Cam in order to keep Newton from being a one man wrecking crew. I believe both QBs will have a big game. Both of these teams are capable of putting up a good amount of points and they tend to do that when playing each other. So, I see this being a higher scoring game than the stats would indicate. I have to give the slight edge to the Saints at home, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Carolina wins. I predict Lutz to outkick Gano and the Saints to win 34-31.