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NFL Betting: Saints vs. Panthers Preview

Posted by Stan Jenkins on 12/22/2013 11:41:56 AM

The New Orleans Saints handily defeated the Carolina Panthers just two weeks ago, but that game was in New Orleans. Can the Saints reaffirm their mastery of the Panthers, or will Carolina strike back this time? The NFC South Division will either be wrapped up by New Orleans, or Carolina will push the race to week 17 and the regular season finale on Dec. 29.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers

Odds: Panthers -3

Total: 45.5

The New Orleans Saints had little trouble dismissing the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 8 in the Louisiana Superdome. The Saints dominated on both sides of the ball, rolling to a 31-13 win to take the lead in the NFC South. A few things stood out from that contest. First of all, Carolina never scored a touchdown in a meaningful game situation. The Panthers scored two field goals in the first quarter and didn’t score their lone touchdown of the night until the game was well out of reach in the fourth quarter. New Orleans led by a 31-6 margin with just over five minutes left in regulation when the Panthers finally cracked the end zone. New Orleans’ defense basically pitched a shutout.

What was also noteworthy about that game is that New Orleans had just been routed by Seattle the previous week on Monday Night Football. The Saints had to fly across the country, deal with a short week of preparation, and handle the pressure associated with a season-defining game. They encountered no problems at all. What does this say about the Saints and Panthers? The answer is open to interpretation.

The pro-New Orleans line of thought is that if the Saints could beat the Panthers following a short week, a long commute, and a bad loss in Seattle, they can naturally deal with Carolina on a normal week with minimal travel disruptions and a lack of other impediments. New Orleans so easily responded to anything and everything Carolina did on Dec. 8, so it’s reasonable to think that this is simply a bad matchup for Carolina, which is part of sports.

On the other hand, one could come up with a pro-Carolina line of reasoning which makes just as much sense if not more. The obvious point of differentiation between New Orleans’ loss to Seattle and its decisive win over Carolina was simply this: The Saints got creamed on the road, and they thrived at home. It really is that simple. New Orleans has been an ordinary team on the road in 2013, but it has been excellent at home. No team has been able to touch the Saints in the Superdome, where they’re 7-0 and will be extremely tough to beat should they host a playoff game. However, road games are a different story for New Orleans.

Prediction

Carolina – which gets a second crack at the Saints just two weeks after getting blown away by New Orleans – should probably be able to find the answers it lacked on Dec. 8. Home field will matter here.

Pick: Panthers -3

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