New Orleans Saints (-4.5, 48 O/U) vs Carolina Panthers, courtesy of our top-rated sportsbook, Bovada.
Ed Dickson, probable; Julius Peppers, probable; Devin Funchess, probable; Greg Olsen, questionable; Daryl Worley, questionable; Damiere Byrd, questionable; Kurt Coleman, questionable; Fozzy Whittaker, questionable; Curtis Samuel, out; Corn Elder, out; Charles Johnson, out.
New Orleans Saints
Coby Fleener, questionable; Ken Crawley, questionable; Marshon Lattimore, questionable; Kenny Vaccaro, questionable; Alex Okafor, out; Daniel Lasco, out; Nathan Stupar, out; Alex Anzalone, out; Zach Strief, out; John Kuhn, out; Jon Dorenbos, out; Delvin Breaux, out; David Parry, out; Nick Fairley, out; Clay Harbor, out
Sep 24, 2017: 34-13 New Orleans
Nov 17, 2016: 23-20 Carolina
Oct 16, 2016: 41-38 New Orleans
Dec 6, 2015: 41-38 Carolina
Sep 27, 2015: 27-22 Carolina
Dec 7, 2014: 41-10 Carolina
Significant Betting Trends
Carolina is 4-1 ATS and SU in its last five games.
New Orleans is 8-1 SU in its last nine games.
New Orleans is 4-0-1 ATS in its last five games against Carolina.
New Orleans is struggling to hit the over, going under in four of their last six games. Carolina is faring better, with six over in nine games, and a streak of two ATS wins and overs against the Jets and the Dolphins.
Saints vs Panthers Matchup
You have heard a lot about the backfield duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. They’re posting ludicrous numbers, and words like “innovative” and “once-in-a-generation” keep being used. Those things are all true. New Orleans has far and away the best rushing attack in the NFL, with a weighted DVOA of +20%, per FootballOutsiders. Even that undersells them, though. A huge portion of Ingram and Kamara’s yards are coming on pass plays, and the pair are projected to gain almost 3,000 yards from scrimmage between them, despite sharing carries with Adrian Peterson for the first four weeks of the season. That historic yardage is the product of a shift in play calling, with the focus of the offense moving away from Drew Brees’ accuracy and towards the Saints’ ability to run the ball. Of course, they’ve also got a pretty good passing attack, with the sixth-highest weighted pass offense per DVOA. Brees leads the league in net yards/attempt (which includes sacks) and completion percentage at 71.3%. Brees isn’t getting quite the amount of work he’s used to, but when he drops back, he makes good.
This all matches up pretty poorly for Carolina, which has the sixth-ranked weighted rush defense DVOA but a roughly replacement level pass defense. Even if they can get a handle on Ingram and Kamara running the ball, they still have to deal with Brees throwing to Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, and Ingram/Kamara out of the backfield. Look for Thomas, in particular, to have a good game; Carolina struggles against #1 receivers.
Working the other way down the field, Carolina has struggled offensively in 2017, with below average efficiency in both weighted and non-adjusted DVOA. The Panthers have plummeted to 17th in the league in pass offense, and are currently 18th in the league in rushing offense. While New Orleans defense is among the better units in the league (not a description anyone expected to attach to the Saints this year), it struggles to contain the run, currently 26th in weighted rush defense DVOA. Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffrey, and Cam Newton have been struggling to break free, and the Saints could be their best opportunity in weeks.
Outcomes often come down to the weakest units on the field, and in this case, that’s likely Carolina’s rushing offense (18th in the league) and New Orleans’ rushing defense (26th). If Carolina is going to win this game, it’s going to need Stewart to do a little better than his season average of 3.2 yards per carry and McCaffrey to showcase some of the promise that got him picked in the first round; either that, or have Cam Newton go full Superman again.
While the Panthers are riding a four-game win streak because of it, there’s a reason the Saints beat Carolina 34-13 in Week 3. New Orleans is a seriously good football team. Their three losses have all come against playoff contenders (Vikings, Patriots, Rams) and their only home loss was to the defending champs from New England.
Will the Saints superiority on offense be enough to cover up their holes on defense? Is that probability worth a 4.5-point spread?
New Orleans has been too good on offense, and the Panthers too anaemic, for me to see how this turns into anything other than another New Orleans boat race.
I hesitate to take the over, though, something nobody has ever said about this matchup. The 48-point total is one of the biggest on offer this week, and while Brees, Kamara, and Ingram are likely to score, and score a lot, Carolina just isn’t the offensive machine it was in the past.
Pick: Saints (-4.5) and UNDER (48)