New Orleans Saints (4-5 SU, 6-3 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (3-6 SU, 2-6-1 ATS)
Week 12 NFL
Date/Time: Thursday Night Football, November 17, 2016 at 8:25PM EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: NO +4/CAR -4
Over/Under Total: 51.5
On Thursday Night Football, the New Orleans Saints come into Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers. Neither team had a good time of it last week, both absorbing losses. The Saints had a particularly painful time of it last Sunday in a wild one with Denver at home. About to take the lead with an extra-point after a late-fourth quarter TD, the XP was blocked and run in, giving Denver the two-point win. Carolina, meanwhile, also suffered a painful loss against the Chiefs, squandering a 17-0 lead at home, as a field goal with time running out gave KC the 20-17 win.
Neither team is even at .500 and usually this late in the season, that would be a death knell. In the NFC South, however, both teams can still go on a run and make some things happen. First-place Atlanta is just 6-4 and tenuously holding on, as they're going through some different challenges at this point in the season. These teams already met on October 16, with New Orleans emerging a 41-38 winner on a late 52-yard field goal. New Orleans had a 21-3 lead at one point in the game, hanging on for the win. They look for more of the same this week.
The Saints were right on the cusp of winning their 5th in 6 games before the cataclysmic events on Sunday. It's not often you see an extra point run back for a two-pointer, much less late in the game with all the marbles on the line. The Saints could have nosed over the .500 mark, while beating the defending Super Bowl champions. And to not be able to win the game is a setback that could go beyond simply losing one game. The win could have boosted them considerably and now they have to regroup in time for a Thursday turnaround on the road against Carolina.
Still, it's only fair to point out the good things going on with the Saints and how they've rebounded from a 0-3 start. They have been getting some dynamic play from the offense, though their point total was understandably less than normal against the formidable Denver defense last week. Drew Brees was over 300 yards (what's new?) again on Sunday with 3 TD throws, though a pair of picks were costly. Also hurting the offense was the lack of a run-game, as the performances of Tim Hightower and Mark Ingram had been critical in reviving the Saints. Both were quiet on Sunday and the offense lacked the effervescence they had been showing over this last stretch of games. Still, they have a vital aerial attack, with Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, and Willie Snead continuing to produce.
The New Orleans defense, while not a top unit, has been able to elevate their play over the course of the season. On Sunday, we saw some of that key playmaking materialize. Kenny Vaccaro and Sterling Moore both registered interceptions, while the Saints' "D" sacked Trevor Siemian 6 times. For a long stretch of the game, they kept Denver off the board and did enough for the Saints to win. Chalk up special teams snafus as the culprit for Sunday's defeat. At any rate, the defense has been able to avoid the same slapstick form they showed earlier in the season when the Saints looked near-hopeless.
At 3-6, the Panthers are in a lot of trouble. And it must somehow be more-painful for a defending conference champion that many pegged to return to the big game this season. For a half, the Panthers looked destined to win at home against a flat-looking road Chiefs team. Cam Newton ran in a score and hit Devin Funchess for a big TD strike. The defense looked to be smothering Smith and the entire Chiefs' offense. It was still 17-3 heading into the 4th, but a Newton pick run back by Eric Berry and a trio of Chiefs' field goals put the Chiefs ahead. Both sides of the ball really collapsed in the second half. The Carolina O-line is now battered and simply not getting the job done. And in a must-win spot on Sunday, their lack of being able to maintain an edge was a bit troubling to say the least, with all respect to the Chiefs, who are a heck of a team.
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One shouldn't shovel dirt on the Panthers just yet. Time and again over the years, they have looked down-and-out only to peel off a long winning streak. Not that this will happen now, but it still could. At some time, however, we have to be honest in an appraisal of this squad. We look at what got them to the top of the conference last season—a strong run game, an MVP performance from their QB, a consistently-running offense bolstered by a strong line, along with a smothering, intimidating, and stout defense. How many of these elements are in place heading into week 11 of this season?
Continuing to wait for the Panthers to snap out of it and be the best team they can be has been a costly game to play this season. After being a super-solid performer at the betting windows last season, the Panthers have covered just two spreads this season. New Orleans, on the other hand, has covered six times. Their first NFC South matchup was a close affair, with a lot of offensive success for both teams. I think a stance on the Saints with the points can be taken this week.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the New Orleans Saints plus 4 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the New Orleans vs. Carolina Thursday Night 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!