In an NFC South rivalry matchup, the Carolina Panthers take on the Saints at home in an effort to keep pace in the NFC playoff race. The Panthers lead the all time series 24-23, but the Saints have won 3 straight, all of which occurred last season.
The Saints bounced back with a 28-14 comeback win in Tampa Bay last week. In week 12, they beat the Falcons 31-17, and lost 13-10 to the Cowboys in week 13.
Carolina has dropped 5 straight, most recently a 26-20 loss to the Browns. In week 12, they lost to the Seahawks 30-27, and lost 24-17 to the Bucs in week 13.
BetOnline has the Saints as 6.5 point favourites on the road with an O/U of 51.5.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints stormed back with a dominant 28-14 win last week after a disappointing 13-10 loss in week 13 to the Cowboys. Drew Brees has been efficient and accurate, throwing for 3463 yards, 31 TDs, and 4 INTs while completing 75.7% of his passes and averaging 8.3 YPA.
Michael Thomas has been their true go to guy, catching 102 balls for 1218 yards and 8 TDs thus far. Alvin Kamara is their de facto #2 receiver with 591 yards and 4 TDs on 70 receptions. Kamara also leads the team in rushing with 173 carries for 793 yards and 11 TDs while Mark Ingram compliments him with 519 yards and 5 TDs on 110 carries.
The Saints defense ranks 10th in terms of points allowed, giving up 21.8 PPG. Their pass defense ranks near the bottom of the league, allowing 271.2 yards per game and 24 TDs through the air, and their pass rush ranks t-2nd with 41 sacks. Their run defense ranks #1 with just 77.6 yards per game and 10 TDs allowed on the ground. The Saints D has forced 20 turnovers, and they own a +8 turnover differential.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
OT Terron Armstead (chest) – questionable, OT Ryan Ramczyk (shoulder) – questionable
Carolina has to get of the snide this week if they have any hopes of sneaking into the playoffs. Cam Newton has been solid this season, throwing for 3266 yards, 24 TDs, and 12 INTs while completing 68.8% of his passes and averaging 7.4 YPA. At receiver, D.J. Moore (46/669/2) and Devin Funchess (42/526/4), while Christian McCaffrey lead the team in every major receiving category with 87 catches for 710 yards and 6 TDs. On the ground, McCaffrey has rushed 179 times for 926 yards and 7 TDs. Cam Newton also utilizes his legs in the run game, rushing for 464 yards and 4 TDs on 97 rushes.
The Panthers scoring defense ranks in the bottom quarter of the league, allowing 25.5 PPG. Their pass defense ranks below average, allowing 254.8 yards per game and 28 TDs through the air, and their pass rush ranks below average with 30 sacks. Their run defense ranks top 10, allowing just 97.8 yards per game and 11 TDs on the ground. The Panthers defense has forced 18 turnovers, but they own just a +2 turnover differential as ta team.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
QB Cam Newton (shoulder) – questionable, DT Kawann Short (calf) – questionable, OT Chris Clark (knee) – questionable
The Panthers are playing with their backs to the wall. Their defense matches up well against the Saints with their speedy linebackers tracking Kamara sideline to sideline and Donte Jackson shadowing Michael Thomas, but the Saints offense is just such a well oiled methodical machine with Brees at the helm. The Panthers lack the inside pass rush needed to get in Brees face to make him uncomfortable, and will need to manufacture pressures while taking away Thomas and Kamara. The run game will be hard to come by, but Sean Payton will stick with it and get creative if need be.
The Panthers offense will really rely on whether or not Cam Newton can be surgical. The Saints coverage has not been great overall, but outside of D.J. Moore the Panthers do not boast any refined route runners. Christian McCaffrey will need to be featured as well and given a heavy dose of targets both out of the backfield and in the slot. If the Panthers can take a Cowboys approach on offense, controlling the clock and converting 3rd downs into long drives, they should be able to keep this one within striking distance.
Final Pick: Panthers (+6.5)