- The Saints have covered the spread in six of their last eight games
- The under has hit in the last two Panthers games
This is a matchup between two teams with very different motivations. The Panthers are playing out the season while the Saints are competing for a first-round bye. However, the Saints are without both Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas in Week 17, severely slowing down their offense.
The Saints offense has not always looked pretty, but it has been effective for the most part. They rank fifth in points per drive and in the top 12 in both net passing yards per attempt and rushing yards per attempt. They also rank in the top 10 in third-down, fourth-down, and red-zone conversion. However, without Thomas, Kamara, and Latavius Murray, that efficiency is likely to be reduced.
The Panthers numbers defensively are not pretty. They rank 28th in averages points per drive and 31st in plays per drive. Their 31st ranked third-down conversion rate belies that concern perfectly. They have struggled to stop teams converting on that crucial down in 2020. However, their biggest weakness on defense is against the run, an area for the Saints hit hard by the loss of Kamara and Murray.
This game could down to which versions of the Saints defense we see. On the season, they are a top-10 ranked defense in most categories. However, when teams get into the red zone, they score a touchdown 71.7% of the time. Those struggles have shown up recently. They allowed 24 points to the Eagles before allowing over 30 to both the Chiefs and Vikings.
Now arguably, both of those teams are better offensively than the Panthers, who will also be without their lead running backs. The Panthers offense is largely league average across the board, although top 10 rankings in yards and plays per drive suggest they can be a tricky customer. However, to give the Saints concerns, they need to score on more than 53% of their red-zone opportunities.
When it comes to motivation, the Saints have the clear edge. Yes, they are short-handed on offense, but Drew Brees continues to get healthier. The Saints cannot afford to lose this game or they risk having to play on the road in Seattle in the divisional round. The weather in Carolina also suits the Saints passing game. All of these things point towards the Saints offense being strong in Week 17.
However, it is hard to lay six points with an offense lacking three of it’s top five playmakers right now. If you want to play this game, take it down to a pick ‘em and add it to your Week 17 teaser.
Where I am playing this game is the total. The Panthers rank 23rd in points scored and the Saints rank eighth in points allowed. There is a good chance the Saints struggle early in this game offensively, before picking off the Panthers in the second half. This game has a 23-17 or 20-17 win for the Saints as the most likely results. Both of those would see the under hit so play that way.
NFL Expert Picks
1u – Under 46 total points @ -105
NFL Free Picks
2020 is in the books and we're starting 2021 with the final week of the NFL regular season, as the playoff places and playoff order are finally locked up. Every game is on Sunday this week with Sunday Night Football being the NFC East clash between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles. On Sunday we have a number on win-and-in games, where a victory would see playoff football. Nearly every game has something riding on it, be it playoff seeding, or players playing for their futures. It's a big week.
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