NFL Vegas Picks: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints 2018 Wild Card
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Saints Have Beaten Panthers Twice This Year
Drew Brees knows the Carolina Panthers well. He should … the future hall of famer has beaten the NFC South rivals twice this season.
Brees and the Saints (11-5) go after the trifecta on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in one of two NFC wild card games this weekend. New Orleans is favored to win by a touchdown (odds provided by bovada.lv).
Brees, who has been with the Saints since he was drafted in the second round in 2001, is looking for his first playoff victory since 2013. The 38-year-old led New Orleans to a Super Bowl title in 2009.
The Panthers (11-5) have a warrior as their leader on the field as well. Cam Newton is the driving force behind the Carolina offense. They were 6-10 last season after losing in the Super Bowl in 2015.
The Panthers won seven of their last nine games with one of the hardest schedules in the NFL. They were 5-3 away from home this season, which included back-to-back road victories over New England and Detroit.
The Saints, who went 7-9 the last three seasons, lost their first two games of the season before winning eight straight. They never lost two in a row in the second half of the schedule. Not only did the Saints win the NFC South, but they posted a +57 point margin against winning teams, the second-best in the NFL.
Why Carolina will win:
- Panthers have won seven of last nine games.
- Beat New England and Minnesota this season.
- One of the best defenses in the NFL.
Why New Orleans will win:
- Beat NFC South rivals twice this season.
- Saints +7 in turnovers, while Panthers -1.
- Former MVP QB has been here before.
Brees had a great season, even though his passing numbers all took a hit. But how couldn’t they with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara in the backfield? Brees completed 72 per cent of his passes for 4,334 yards and 23 touchdowns. He was picked off a career-low eight times.
Ingram and Kamara combined for 1,852 yards on the ground and 20 touchdowns. They added five more scores through the air with 139 receptions and 1,242 receiving yards. Michael Thomas led the Saints with 104 catches, good for 1,245 yards and five TDs.
The Panthers ranked 19th in the league on offense, but fourth in rushing. They were seventh overall on defense and third best against the run. Carolina shut down just about every team on the ground this year — except New Orleans.
Newton didn’t have a great year passing the ball, but he had a career year as a rusher. He threw for 3,302 yards and 22 touchdowns, but he had 16 passes picked off and he fumbled three times. He made up for it on the ground with 754 yards and six scores.
Newton was the team’s leading rusher ahead of Jonathan Stewart, who gained 680 yards and scored six times. Rookie Christian McCaffrey was the leading receiver with 80 catches for 651 yards and five touchdowns. The rookie out of Stanford also carried the ball 117 times and added two scores.
The Saints, who were 7-1 at home this season, haven’t lost a home playoff game since January 1993. Even though they have dominated the Panthers twice this year, Newton’s the wild card. He should keep the game close.
VGB’s picks — Carolina (+7), Over (48)