For the final week of the 2019 regular season, the New Orleans Saints will travel to take on the Carolina Panthers in a divisional matchup. The first time these two teams met this season, it ended with the Saints walking away with a three-point victory 34-31 five weeks ago.
New Orleans enters this game as a 13-point favorite, with the over/under set at 46. These teams surpassed the over in the first matchup easily, and I would expect the same in this one.
To Be Determined
The Saints enter this week 12-3 and in a three-way tie with the 49ers and Packers in the NFC. This game will have significant playoff implications, and the Saints need to walk away with a win to have a chance at a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.
The Saints are led once again by future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees, who is up to 2,776 yards, 24 touchdowns, and four interceptions this season. In the Saints’ first meeting with Carolina, Brees posted 311 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.
Following the record-breaking trend is wide receiver Michael Thomas, who broke the record for the most receptions in a season in his last game. Thomas currently has 145 receptions for 1,688 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
The Saints are averaging 27.7 points per game while allowing 22.1. They are also posting 385 yards while giving up 354. While all the numbers lean in favor of New Orleans, divisional games have a funny way of playing out differently, and this should make for an exciting Week 17 matchup.
End Of A Difficult Season
The Panthers have had a rough season that led to the firing of their head coach, Ron Rivera. They sit at 5-10 and have lost five straight. In their first three games without Rivera, the Panthers have been less than impressive, with losses to the Falcons, Seahawks, and Colts.
After the early loss of Cam Newton this season, Kyle Allen initially stepped up and looked like the long-term answer at quarterback by winning games and not turning the ball over at all.
In recent weeks, things have begun to tumble downhill in a hurry as he hasn’t been able to get wins and is throwing interceptions in almost every game. Allen currently has 3,027 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, though he was displaced by rookie Will Grier as the starter last week.
The leader on the Carolina offense is Christian McCaffrey, who has gotten it done out of the backfield with 278 carries for 1,361 yards and 14 touchdowns. What makes McCaffrey such a threat is his presence in the receiving game.
He has tallied 109 receptions for 933 yards and four more touchdowns. The Carolina running back is likely the top MVP candidate outside of the quarterback position in the league. The Panthers will need to do all they can to keep possession this week and keep McCaffrey involved.
The Panthers are averaging 22 points per game while allowing 28.5. They are also posting 374 yards per game while giving up 394. These stats help explain a lot of Carolina’s struggles this season.
What To Expect
While everything on paper seems to lean in the Saints’ favor, don’t forget that this is a division game, and they do play each other closely. The Panthers come into this game with nothing to lose while the Saints have everything on the line.
If Carolina can maintain possession and keep Brees off the field, it may make it hard for the Saints. Grier will give the Panthers a different look than the Saints saw in the first game and could swing the momentum in this one.
I do think the Saints will pull off this win on the road as they ride momentum into the playoffs, but I believe they will not cover the 13-point spread. Give me the Panthers to at least cover the spread.