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NFL Betting: Panthers vs. Saints Preview

Posted by Stan Jenkins on 12/8/2013 10:52:02 AM

The Carolina Panthers started the NFL season 1-3, and they haven’t looked back ever since. A confident, tough team with inspired leadership and a ruthlessly physical defense should be able to play the New Orleans Saints on level terms for 60 minutes. In what feels like a very close game, which team will find that extra handful of plays which will make all the difference in a December duel of considerable importance? Professional football fans, especially those in the South, can’t wait to find the answer.

Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints

Odds: New Orleans -3.5

Total: 44.5

The Carolina Panthers have undergone a sharp and abrupt transformation from downtrodden doormat to Super Bowl contender in a matter of two months. The team that was once 1-3 is now in position to win the NFC South title if it can win two games against the New Orleans Saints in the next two weeks. Everything is possible for the Panthers, who used their defense to turn around their season while gaining improved performances from quarterback Cam Newton, a young man who is growing into the role of a starting NFL field general. It’s true that Carolina played a number of weak teams in the process of establishing a strong record, but the Panthers played their way into a different mindset. They established good habits that remained intact against the better teams in the league.

Carolina overcame three distinct challenges in the month of November. The Panthers won a road game against a very physical defense by playing even better defense in their own right against the San Francisco 49ers. Winning that first challenging game following the start of their winning streak enabled the Panthers to say that they were no longer the product of a soft schedule. That 10-9 win over San Francisco truly put them on the map.

The second challenge was to follow up one big win with another, and the Panthers passed that test as well, edging the New England Patriots in the spotlight provided by Monday Night Football. If the San Francisco win seemed like a fluke, the Panthers destroyed that claim by hanging tough against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

The third test for Carolina in November was to avoid a letdown in the wake of those two big victories. The Panthers wobbled at times against the Miami Dolphins, but they came through in the clutch, driving for a game-winning touchdown in the final minutes. This team truly looks like a Super Bowl contender. It will not be awed by the occasion when it plays New Orleans on Sunday night.

This game will be decided not by mistakes, but by big plays. These are two quality teams, and Carolina’s defense is going to win its share of battles against New Orleans’ offense. What will probably make a big difference is that New Orleans’ defense is strong enough to contain Carolina’s offense. New Orleans’ offense probably won’t have to score in the 30s to win this game. The Saints can win as long as they score in the middle to upper 20s.

Prediction

It’s true that the Panthers deserve every bit of respect they’re getting. The Saints, however, know they need to win this home game before they go to Charlotte in two weeks. These teams are likely to split their season series, so go with the Saints this time in Louisiana.

Pick: Saints

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