New Orleans Saints (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS, 2-0 O/U) vs. Carolina Panthers (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS, 0-2 O/U)
NFL: Sunday, September 24, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. EST
The Line: Carolina Panthers -6. Total: 48.
The Carolina Panthers will be trying to remain undefeated when they host the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Carolina is coming off consecutive victories over San Francisco and Buffalo. The Saints, on the other hand, are in dire need of a victory having lost to Minnesota and New England.
Wake them up when September ends
The Saints have not exactly been juggernauts at any point in any season over the last few seasons, but they have been especially bad in September. Drew Brees and company compiled the following records in the opening month in 2014, 2015, and 2016: 1-3, 0-2, and 0-3. They are off to an 0-2 start this time around, thoroughly underwhelming in setbacks against the Vikings and Patriots. Brees struggled throughout September in 2014 and 2015, but he was hardly the problem last year. In the first three games, the veteran quarterback threw eight touchdown passes compared to only one interception. So far this season he has tossed three scoring strikes without getting picked off. Still, the Saints have scored just 39 total points and must get going immediately with every other team in the NFC South undefeated.
“We’ll find out a little bit about what we’re made of,” head coach Sean Payton said following the loss to New England. “We just finished talking about the sprint here that we’re in to improve each week. Obviously, you start off like this and there’s disappointment. And yet, we’ve got the right type of locker room. But we’ve got to respond quickly.”
Carolina tight end Greg Olsen will not play on Sunday due to a broken right foot, which he sustained during the first half of this past week’s 9-3 victory over Buffalo. Olsen, who has started 81 consecutive games for the Panthers, could be out for six to eight weeks. The good news is that the Panthers are playing the Saints this week. The bad news, though, is that Olsen has been a force against this particular NFC South rival. Last season, Olsen had a combined 127 receiving yards in the two head-to-head showdowns. In Carolina’s home date with New Orleans in 2015, Olsen finished with 134 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-22 win. Without one of his favorite targets, quarterback Cam Newton may be hard-pressed to get on track in 2017. Through two outings, Newton is just 34-of-57 for 399 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He has also rushed for a mere 30 yards.
“(He’s making) good decisions, just missing some opportunities,’’ head coach Ron Rivera said following last weekend’s win. “A couple of times he was late on a couple of decisions. He ended up holding the ball a little bit long. If he goes with his first or second read, or tries to throw to somebody open, there’s that opportunity the ball gets out of his hands earlier. But there were some really good decisions, some real good actions by him. Unfortunately, we missed them. We missed three balls that we normally, or used to, hit. We’ve got to continue to work him.’’
The New Orleans Saints are:
- 9-2 ATS in their last 11 road games
- 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games against the NFC South
- 6-1 ATS in their last seven games on grass
The Carolina Panthers are:
- 1-4 ATS in their last five home games
- 1-5 ATS in their last six games against the NFC South
- 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine games following a win
The Saints are unlikely to win on Sunday, but six points may be enough to cover. After all, they have no real trouble scoring points and Carolina is not exactly lighting up the scoreboard to the extent that it is capable of blowing teams out. With Olsen sidelined, Newton should once again be held in check by a mediocre opponent. New Orleans is 9-2 ATS in its last 11 on the road, 8-3 ATS in its last 11 against the NFC, 9-2 ATS in its last 11 against the NFC South, 6-1 ATS in its last seven on grass, and 36-17-1 ATS in its last 54 against winning opponents. The Panthers are 1-4 ATS in their last five at home, 1-5 ATS in their last six against the NFC South, 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine following a win, and 0-4 ATS in the last four meetings between the two teams. Don’t be surprised if those trends continue.
Pick: New Orleans Saints +6
Through two weeks of the NFL season, San Francisco running back Carlos Hyde and LeSean McCoy of the Bills rank among the top 13 rushers in the league. That is despite having faced the Panthers. Hyde gained only 45 yards against Carolina before going for 124 at Seattle’s expense. After racking up 110 yards on the Jets, McCoy was held in check by the Panthers to the tune of a nine-yard performance last Sunday. The under is 11-3 in the Saints’ last 14 trips to Carolina. It is also 5-0-1 in the Panthers’ last six overall, 4-0-1 in their last five at home, 3-0-1 in their last four against the NFC, 3-1-1 in their last five against the NFC South, 5-0-1 in their last six on grass, and 5-1-1 in their last seven following a win. Look for this one to stay under the total.