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New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers Point Spread - Pick

New Orleans Saints (11-2 SU, 10-3 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (6-7 SU, 5-8 ATS)
Week 15 NFL
Date/Time: Monday Night Football, December 17, 2018 at 8:15PM EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
TV: ESPN

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: NO -6.5/CAR +6.5
Over/Under Total: 53.5

The New Orleans Saints come to Charlotte for a week 15 NFC South battle with the Carolina Panthers on MNF. Those who scheduled this were certainly anticipating a higher-stakes battle. New Orleans has locked up this division and now will be vying for one of the top playoff seeds in the NFC. For The Panthers, a promising season has gone wayward, with Sunday being their fifth loss in a row—another collapse late, this time to the Browns, 26-20. Meanwhile, the final score of the Saints beating the Buccaneers, 28-14, doesn't suggest any issues, as they got the win and cover. But it was a struggle, with the Saints finding their stride late to notch their 11th win.

It's very unusual for two division teams to be in week 15 of the season and facing each other for the first time. These two will meet again at the Superdome in the regular season finale. The Saints are up against it in the sense that they could be a little weary heading into their third straight road-game. It's just a spot where one could justify forecasting a less than 100 percent squad. But when one looks at their ATS mark this season, it's clear that awaiting a Saints' comedown has come at a price this season. That doesn't mean there haven't been issues. After losing the previous week to Dallas, 13-10, they started very slow against Tampa and were behind 14-3 late in the third quarter. A lot of people were saying "What's wrong with the Saints?" After seeing the Saints run away with it late, not many were asking that anymore.

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Drew Brees is really a wonder, still putting up huge stats and results at his age. Usually when a guy is breaking records, he's over the hill, but Drew's numbers suggest a player who is in phenomenal form. The balance on this offense is tremendous, galvanized by a tip-top offensive line that keeps Brees well-protected and springs a big run-game. The Saints' defense has had three times more sacks than what Brees has suffered. The 1-2 RB punch with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram is a handful, while both are valuable aerial weapons for Brees. Michael Thomas is a great receiver. Thirteen different players have caught a Brees TD pass this season.

Like most high-powered teams, there are issues with the Saints' defense, while they also have some bright spots. It never seems like their aerial defense is ever that great. It could have to do with the teams they've played or how tough they are against the run, but their secondary isn't very stout. They've had some injuries in that area, stunting the development of up and comers like Marshon Lattimore. But the line, with guys like Cameron Jordan, Tyeler Davison, Alex Okafor, and Sheldon Rankins have helped plug the opposing run, while getting after quarterbacks. Demario Davis and Alex Anzalone are strong in the middle. In the last five games, they've allowed a total of 65 points. That's gonna get it done more often than not.

Things fell apart after a 6-2 start for the Panthers. Sure, there were a lot of games on the road, some tough opponents, and unfortunate sequences, but it's still been bemusing. At home this week, they are coming off 4 road games in their last five weeks of play. It's just that heading into week ten, if someone told you they'd need to win out to get a playoff spot by week 15, it would have been hard to believe. Before they went down the tubes, they were smoking teams. It was quite the drastic turnaround. On Sunday against the Browns, the Panthers led late, saw their lead evaporate once again, and failed to punch it in late when it mattered.

After a strong start to the season, the Carolina offense has had some bumpy passages as of late. Newton has made more mistakes and when they really need an answer late, this side of the ball hasn't been terribly clutch. Christian McCaffrey has made big strides this season, as he is the team's leading rusher and receiver. Rookie DJ Moore has been solid, with Devin Funchess, Jarius Wright, and Curtis Samuel their other threats. The line has been pretty good most of the season. It just hasn't worked much as of late. A major problem is how the Panthers have not delivered in games when the chips are in the middle of the pot. On Sunday, we saw Newton miss an open receiver late in the end zone, where executing would have won the game. In the NFL, not coming through in a pinch is as deadly a drawback as you can have and the Panthers have embodied that over the past month and change.

The most-noticeable slippage on the Panthers has been seen on the defensive side of the ball. In recent weeks, teams have gotten to the Panthers' defense on the ground and aerially. On Sunday, the Browns were able to find success in both areas. With Julius Peppers, Mario Addison, Kawann Short, Dontari Poe, and others, the front has been pretty good for the most part—offering resistance to the opposing run-game and also rushing the passer with some aplomb. And Luke Kuechly mans the middle. The secondary has been dicey. While flashy and capable of the big play, they have not been clutch nor rigid for much of the past month-plus. On Sunday, we saw the secondary get burned on a handful of big plays. That doesn't bode well when about to face the Saints.

The Saints do appear to now be more-prone to stretches of ineffectiveness than they were earlier in the season. Until Sunday's late spurt on Sunday, their offense had been in a slump for nearly two whole games. And this is their third straight road game at a time in the season where some fatigue could be setting into their bones. But the Panthers are really off-the-charts now with as big a collapse as you can find, going from 6-2 to 6-7. I look for the Saints to keep he momentum they developed last week going here, as they get the win and cover.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the New Orleans Saints minus 6.5 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Saints-Panthers MNF game at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!

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