The Carolina Panthers (6-9) will head to Mercedes-Benz Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints (13-2) in Week 17 (December 30, 2018 at 1:00pm EST). The Panthers opened as 9.0-point underdogs.
The Panthers are averaging an uninspiring 22.9 PPG (17th). But they could very easily escape the mediocrity if they’d just cut the turnovers. Carolina has committed 22 turnovers this season (23rd), which includes four last week against the Falcons.
Misguided Cam Newton passes produced an intolerable 13 of those giveaways, and Taylor Heinicke picked up where he left off in his first career start last week, throwing three interceptions.
The Panthers will be turning to their third starting quarterback in as many weeks, though, as Heinicke was placed on the IR Wednesday morning. Carolina will likely be turning to undrafted rookie Kyle Allen against the Saints in Week 17.
Carolina’s defense has been so good due to their ability to stuff the run. They only cede 108 rushing yards per game (10th), compared to 249.1 through the air (21st).
Unfortunately, the Panthers’ stinginess against the run has not been enough to keep teams off the scoreboard, as they allow 24.5 points per game (21st).
Carolina’s defense is in tough this week against a New Orleans offense that has had no issue scoring points. The Saints are scoring 32.7 points per game (second) thanks to their ability to attack in so many ways. They rank 11th in passing (262.1 yards per game) and 10th in rushing (122.7 yards per game).
Drew Brees has been outstanding for New Orleans this season, accumulating 3,992 yards through the air with a 32:5 TD to INT ratio.
He’s receiving great production from his pass-catchers, particularly Michael Thomas (1,376 receiving yards), but has also benefited from being able to count on Alvin Kamara to take some pressure off him when necessary. Kamara has churned out 883 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns this year, making the Saints’ offense a work of art.
On the other side of the ball, New Orleans’s defense has been stingy. They’re allowing just 21.3 PPG, ranking eighth in the league.
Teams have had enough difficulty protecting the football, let alone putting it in the endzone against this defense. The Saints have taken the ball away 24 times this season, ranking 7th in the NFL.
And they’ve even contributed some points of their own, scoring one defensive touchdown. You can bet the Panthers spent the week preaching ball security coming into this one.
New Orleans barely got by the Panthers, 12-9, the last time these two teams met, which was December 17th, 2018. The Saints served as the favorite in that game, too, laying 6.0 points.