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New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers Point Spread - Pick

New Orleans Saints (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS)
Week 3 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, September 24, 2017 at 1PM EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
TV: Fox

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: NO +6/CAR -6
Over/Under Total: 47.5

The New Orleans Saints make the trip to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers in NFC South division action on Sunday. This week three matchup is critical for the Saints, who are on the verge of seeing things get away from them after an 0-2 start. On Sunday, the Saints hosted the New England Patriots and after the Pats lost their first game of the season, they were pumped-up and pulled away with a 36-20 win in the Saints' home-opener. Carolina came out on the good side of a 9-3 grind against the Bills at home in week two. It wasn't pretty, but they're 2-0 and looking for more success this week against their divisional rival.

The Saints offense wasn't all that bad on Sunday. The run-game hasn't been very good, with Mark Ingram quiet and Adrian Peterson not only not producing, but already voicing his malcontent at being used so little. Drew Brees had a good game, but couldn't keep up with Brady, who was in fine form. The defense was imminently-exploitable and New England really had their way with them on Sunday.

Brees threw for 356 yards on Sunday with a pair of TD throws. Playing from behind has made it so they can't really develop the run-game to their liking. Ingram has been good in limited work, with Peterson still getting acclimated to the offense. On Sunday, at least Brees started to connect with talented second-season receiver Michael Thomas, who had 89 yards. Brandon Coleman caught a touchdown, as did TE Coby Fleener. Rookie back Alvin Kamara has also shown his wares as a playmaker on offense as well as in the return game. They have enough pieces to have a sterling offense, but alas, the defense has to cooperate or it takes the offense out of character. And a New Orleans offense that isn't allowed to be itself just isn't very good. Also hurting is their two tackles are missing time and they hope to at least get Terron Armstead this week, with fill-in tackles Andrus Peat and Ryan Ramczyk not really ideal.

The New Orleans defense was a major part of the team's failings on Sunday. The same can be said about the Saints over the past several seasons. When the top tacklers on defense are all members of the secondary, that's a bad sign. On Sunday, Brady hit the 300-yard mark before the first half was even over. The line was manhandled on occasion, while the middle wasn't much more impactful. And if the secondary continues to be so porous against the pass, there is only so much the Saints will be able to do this season. After allowing a near-perfect game to Sam Bradford in week one, they gave up over 300 yards in the first half to the 40-year old Brady, who had only done that one other time in his long career.

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The Panthers have done well for themselves in the first two weeks, as they try to put their 6-10 record of last season further in their past. Granted, a win over a ramshackle 49ers squad, followed by a 9-3 win over Buffalo at home is not grounds for a parade, but they still look to go to 3-0 and let's remember that even at their best, they didn't always win pretty. And a big part of that is their defense. In two games so far, they've yielded three points in both of their games with no touchdowns allowed so far this season.

The Carolina offense wasn't that good on Sunday, failing to turn yards into actual points. Cam Newton was sacked six times and even worse, they look like they've now lost TE Greg Olsen for extended time with a broken foot. That could be bad for an offense that is already struggling. Newton was 20-for-32 passing with 228 yards and the battering resulted in him tweaking his ankle. We'll see if that affects him Sunday. But they only got three field goals on the day, largely due to a Buffalo defense that is also playing really well to open the season. Kelvin Benjamin had some big moments, as did WR Devin Fuchess. But so far, the rookie combo of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel has been very quiet. McCaffrey caught 4 balls, but had 10 yards on 8 rushes, while Samuel caught two balls for a meager 7 yards.

It looks like the defense might even be a more important part of the Carolina equation than is usually the case this season. Granted, San Francisco and Buffalo are hardly among the better offenses they will face this season, but a pair of field goals on the season so far speaks volumes. On Sunday, they got a big assist from veteran Julius Peppers, who registered two sacks. Mario Addison added another. The run game was grounded for Buffalo, which was due in large part to the robust Carolina front. As usual, linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis were all over the field. And with Tyrod Taylor throwing for just 125 yards, the secondary was on-point, with James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, Kurt Coleman, Captain Munnerlyn, and Mike Adams mostly performing well.

Carolina's defense will be tested to a greater extent this week against the Saints than it was against the pedestrian 49ers and Bills offenses. But it might not matter if the Saints' defense can't stop anything. Last season saw each of these teams winning at home by three in their two 2016 games. The Saints are certainly feeling the desperation, but that alone will not win games when the defense is getting manhandled by the opponent. We just see this divisional game being close and we're taking the Saints

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the New Orleans Saints plus 6 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Saints vs. Panthers 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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