Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#467 New Orleans Saints vs.
#468 Carolina Panthers
Sunday, September 25, 2022 at 1:00pm EDT
Bank Of America Stadium, Charlotte
Written by Mark Ruelle

The New Orleans Saints hit the road for their second-straight NFC South battle as they take on the Carolina Panthers in Carolina on Sunday afternoon. The New Orleans Saints come into this matchup at 1-1 on the season following Sunday's fight-filled loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Panthers have started the season 0-2 and head coach Matt Rhule knows that job security could be on the line if his team doesn't start putting together wins. The opening kick is set for 1:00pm EST.

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Old Habits

After defeating Tom Brady and the Bucs on four-straight opportunities in the regular season, the Saints fell flat on Sunday and dropped a 20-10 decision in an emotionally charged game in New Orleans. The Saints played the game without starting running back Alvin Kamara, who didn't dress due to a rib injury. Saints quarterback Jameis Winston went 25-of-40 on the day for 236 yards and a touchdown. He also threw three interceptions, all of which occurred in the fourth quarter. One of Winston's picks was returned for a touchdown that gave the Bucs an insurmountable 20-3 lead. Winston, suffering through a back injury, wasn't making excuses after the game:

"Everyone in that locker room is playing with a banged-up something," Winston said. "What is most important is offensively I have to do a better job of executing on third downs and I can't give them the football."

The Saints finished the game with 18 first downs and were 4-of-13 in third down conversions. They held the Bucs to just 13 first downs and a 5-of-17 third down conversion rate. Despite the Bucs' injury-riddled offensive line, the Saints were only able to get to Brady for one sack while getting just three QB hits in the game. On the other side of the ball, the Saints offensive line allowed six sacks and nine quarterback hits in the game. New Orleans also turned the ball over four times while recovering one TB fumble. For the game, the Saints fumbled a total of four times, recovering their own fumble three times. Wide receiver Michael Thomas continued his stellar return from injury with six catches and a touchdown in a losing effort.

The Saints offense comes into week 3 ranked just 19th in the NFL in points per game. They are 4th in red zone scoring percentage, converting on 80% of their opportunities thus far. Despite Kamara's injury, the Saints are still 9th in rushing offense and the Saints' passing attack ranks just 18th in the league. Most notable is that the Saints are just 19th in yards per completion. On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints are 21st in points allowed, 23rd in rushing yards per game and 11th in passing yards allowed per game. One major area of concern is the Saints turnover margin per game with the team ranking 26th in the NFL in that category.

Key Injuries: The Saint had nine players on limited participation in practice on Thursday. The biggest concerns remain quarterback Jameis Winston with his back and running back Alvin Kamara with his rib injury. Given his limited status last week as well, it is likely that Winston will be a go this week. As for Kamara, he was a game-time scratch last Sunday and it could come down to game time this week as well.

Now or Never

The time is now for Matt Ruhle and the Carolina Panthers to start producing or changes may be on the horizon. Matt Rhule is now 10-25 as the head coach of the Panthers in 2+ seasons following the Panthers' 19-16 loss to the Giants in East Rutherford, NJ on Sunday. After producing just three field goals and a touchdown in the loss, the Panthers and quarterback Baker Mayfield need to start stringing together wins or the Panthers' brass may start making moves.

“We prepare our (tails) off,” said Baker Mayfield, who was 14 of 29 for 145 yards and a touchdown. “We work during the week. There’s no question about that. We’re ready to go. We just have to come out and execute.”

The Panthers are now 0-2 on the season and have lost by a grand total of five points combined. On Sunday, the Panthers were tied at six with the Giants at halftime and took the lead in the 3rd quarter thanks to a Mayfield to DJ Moore touchdown. Moore had three catches for 43 yards on the day. The Panthers did see the reemergence of Christian McCaffrey as a ground threat as he produced 152 yards on just 15 carries. McCaffrey also led the Panthers with four catches but for just 26 yards. Overall, Carolina had just 275 total yards. They were also just 1-of-4 in the red zone and a dismal 2-0f-12 on 3rd down. The Panthers shot themselves in the foot with two fumbles lost in the game as well.

Defensively, the Panthers held the Giants to just 3.8 yards per play for the game and 265 total yards. They held the Giants to just 3.1 yards per rush a week after the Giants ran for well over 200 yards against Tennessee. Unfortunately, when they needed to, the Panthers defense couldn't make the crucial stops they needed to make. Part of the issue was likely time of possession as the Panthers held the ball for just over 24 minutes while the Giants had possession for almost 36 minutes.

The Carolina offense has been mediocre at best over the first two weeks of the season. The team ranks 15th in points per game, just 29th in total offense, 20th in rushing offense and 30th in passing offense. The Panthers' inability to convert in the red zone is reflected in the team's 26th-ranked red zone touchdown percentage. Defensively, the Panthers are a solid 9th in total defense. They are 18th in scoring defense, they are 29th in rushing defense and 3rd in passing defense.

Key Injuries: The Panthers are relatively healthy with much of name appearing on the injury report expected to play on Sunday. One possible concern in cornerback Donte Jackson (hamstring) but he participated fully in practice on Friday.

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Full-Game Side Bet

Insiders Status:

Rating:

The Panthers are better than their 0-2 record indicates and the Saints may be a bit worse than their 1-1 record. The Panthers have one of the better defenses in the NFL as evidenced by their ability to shut down the Giants rushing attack this week. The Panthers were gouged in week one by the Browns running game, but bounced back in week 2. Carolina has excelled against the pass, ranked 3rd in yards allowed thus far. With Kamara banged up and Mark Ingram II far from the explosive runner he's been in the past, the Panthers will force Jameis Winston and his balky back to beat them. Winston looked very much like the Winston that threw over 30 interceptions in a season for the Bucs early in his career last week. The Panthers also got some good news last week with the play of McCaffrey, who looked quick and elusive against the Giants. His ability to run will open up the field for Mayfield and give the Panthers more opportunities to make big plays. The Panthers will cut down their mistakes this week and produce in the red zone while forcing Winston into mistakes of his own.

Take the points at home and go with the Panthers.

Prediction: Panthers +2.5

Full-Game Total Pick

Insiders Status:

Rating:

This is a super low number for such an early season game played in excellent conditions with two teams that need to produce offensively this week. The Saints are 5-1 to the over in their last six games on grass. The Panthers are 6-1 to the over in their last six games on grass. Rhule will expand his playbook this week and find ways to get DJ Moore and McCaffrey the ball in space and allow Mayfield to feel comfortable in the pocket. One thing to keep in mind, despite their overall modest numbers, the Panthers are 6th in yards per catch this season thanks to their speedy stable of receivers. That number will grow when McCaffrey starts gaining a level of comfort with Mayfield.

Take the over, 40.5 points.

Prediction: Over 40.5
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Written By Mark Ruelle , "Mark Ruelle"

Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.