Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints Prediction: Depleted Carolina Defense Might Not be Enough in the Big Easy

Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints prediction and pick. Injuries and COVID-19 have hit a Carolina team that has already been struggling for weeks. With Taysom Hill back for the Saints, it might be too much to overcome.
Ben Gretch |
Sat, January 1, 3:26 PM EST | 8 min read
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Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints Prediction: Depleted Carolina Defense Might Not be Enough in the Big Easy

New Orleans Saints vs Miami Dolphins Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

Date: January 2

Game Time: 4:25 pm ET

Where to Watch: FOX

Panthers vs. Saints odds

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  • Key Note: The Panthers will be without Stephon Gilmore due to a groin injury, and key defenders Brian Burns, Haason Reddick, and Shaq Thompson have all been on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week

Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints Prediction

As we know, NFL betting these days is largely influenced by who is available on which teams. The Panthers have been going the wrong way as a team for some time now, and heading into Week 17 they’ve had a significant COVID-19 outbreak, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. Already without key cornerback Stephon Gilmore due to a groin injury, the first two levels of the Panthers’ defense are also likely to be undermanned this week thanks to COVID-19. Edge rusher Haason Reddick went on the list Wednesday, and looks unlikely to play, while fellow edge Brian Burns and linebacker Shaq Thompson were activated Saturday but missed the week of practice. We've seen some teams ease guys back in from the reserve/COVID-19 list, like the Chiefs with Tyreek Hill last week, and there may be some similar snap count limitations for these key defensive pieces. 

The Panthers have had a rough go of it over the past month-plus, but their defense has remained a fairly competent unit. Unfortunately, they will be at less than 100%, especially on the defensive line, where multiple depth pieces have also been on the list. The Saints have been without both starting tackles for some time, and it doesn’t seem likely that either Terron Armstead or Ryan Ramczyk will return as Armstead hasn’t been practicing and Ramczyk is on the reserve/COVID-19 list himself. But the extent to which Carolina can take advantage is in question this week. 

Other than their tackle issues, the Saints are getting healthier, notably activating both Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian from the reserve/COVID-19 list this week after being forced to start overmatched rookie Ian Book last week. Hill seems likely to start, and we know he brings dual-threat ability that will raise the bar for the offense, at least relative to last week’s debacle. The Saints are at home so we gave an indoor environment, and they are in must-win mode where two straight wins to close the season gives them a reasonable shot of sneaking into the playoffs — 78% by FiveThirtyEight’s model — despite currently sitting on the outside looking in. 

The Panthers have announced they’ll start Sam Darnold, which at this point I’m not clear whether it’s an upgrade. Other than some positive rushing plays, Cam Newton has not looked good in his time with the Panthers this season, but Darnold had also nose-dived after a fast start before missing time. Third-stringer P.J. Walker has also not provided much, such that the Panthers have gotten poor quarterback play for the past few months. 

What Darnold does probably bring is a little more passing-game upside, simply from the perspective that he’s more of a pass-first quarterback. The Saints have a stout run defense, and are strong against the pass as well, but for the Panthers to contend here it’s likely going to be through guys like D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson making plays downfield. Darnold at least raises the ceiling in the passing game, even if his inclusion in the starting lineup really only brings more overall passing volume than a guarantee of any efficiency boost. 

I like the Saints to cover in this one at home, especially against a Panthers team that has seemed for some time now to be packing it in for 2021 and has now had a tumultuous week with the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m also taking the over in this one, because I’m a sucker for game totals in the thirties, especially when this game is in a climate-controlled environment with both teams starting a new quarterback that could inject some life into their offenses.

Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints Prediction

  • PICK: NO -6.5
  • PICK: Over 38

Ben Gretch
@YardsPerGretch

Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.

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