Panthers vs. Saints Odds
This Sunday’s matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers is a battle between familiar faces as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and cornerback Eli Apple make their first return to New Orleans since leaving in free agency this past spring.
In place of Drew Brees for five games last season, Bridgewater revitalized his career, going 5-0 while throwing for 1,205 yards and nine touchdowns with a 69.7% completion percentage.
The connections don’t stop there as Carolina’s first-year offensive coordinator Joe Brady also returns to New Orleans, where he served as an offensive assistant under head coach Sean Payton from 2017 to 2018.
Oddsmakers have installed the hometown Saints as 7.5-point favorites over the Panthers. With so much familiarity between these two NFC South foes, where’s the betting value in this matchup? Let’s find out.
Familiarity could breed contempt in a matchup in which Brady leads an offensive system similar to what’s deployed in New Orleans, potentially leaving little room for the element of surprise.
The Panthers’ offense, led by Bridgewater, continues to be the strength of this team. Despite playing the eighth-toughest schedule of opposing pass defenses, the Panthers are 11th in Football Outsiders’ passing DVOA. Bridgewater is fourth in completion percentage (70.9%) and seventh in yards (1676) while primarily throwing to wide receiver Robby Anderson, who is second in the NFL in receiving yards with 566 on 40 receptions. D.J. Moore has also added 27 receptions for 474 yards, tied for 10th in the league.
In the backfield, Mike Davis continues to perform in the absence of Christian McCaffrey. Davis is eighth in total yards from scrimmage (406) and ninth in rushing yards (206) since he took over in Week 3, although he could struggle against a Saints defense that’s allowing just 3.6 yards per carry. If the Saints defensive front causes the Panthers to become one-dimensional, Bridgewater may have to take on a bigger role.
Carolina’s red-zone woes continue to be its biggest achilles heel: The Panthers scored touchdowns on just 11 of their 23 trips (47.8%) inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, which ranks 28th in the NFL. They were just 1-for-3 in the red zone and kicked field goals on trips to the 2- and 3-yard lines in last week’s loss to the Bears.
The Saints are 31st in red-zone defense and allow touchdowns on 85% of opponents’ trips inside the 20-yard line, so this could be a get-right game for Carolina in that respect.
The Panthers closed their practice facility until Wednesday after guard Michael Schofield was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. Backup offensive tackle Trent Scott and kicker Joey Slye were also placed on the list, but the duo was taken off it Friday and are set to play Sunday. The Panthers could potentially miss right guard John Miller due to an ankle injury as well.
Defensively, Carolina could find itself in a rough spot in this matchup.
The losses of defensive tackle Kawann Short and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos hurt a struggling defense that’s dead last in sacks (five) and 29th in pressure rate (18.5%). Carolina does welcome back Apple at corner after missing last week’s game, however that doesn’t do much to solve their real issues defensively.
Stopping Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray figures to be a problem since Carolina is allowing 56% of the opposition’s runs to be successful (24th per Sharp Football Stats) on 4.9 yards per carry (26th). They’ve also given up the third-most receptions to opposing running backs, who have caught 47-of-55 targets at 7.0 yards per reception.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have dominated the Panthers in recent years, winning six of the last seven meetings. Brees and Payton have been a solid bet coming off a bye week, as they’re 8-5 (61.5%) straight up and against the spread in that spot according to our BetsLabs data.
Digging even deeper into the numbers, the Saints are 6-3 (66.7%) straight up and against the spread after a bye when at home and just 2-2 on the road.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas has yet to play since suffering a high-ankle sprain in Week 1 and appeared to be on track to play this week until being limited in practice due to a hamstring injury and eventually ruled out. Despite his absence, this Saints offense hasn’t skipped a beat — it’s fifth in points per game (30.6), 12th in total yards (378.4) and 12th in passing (263.4).
Brees and Emmanuel Sanders were finally beginning to develop chemistry –Sanders caught 12 passes for 122 yards in Week 5 against the Chargers — but the wide receiver was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list Friday and won’t play Sunday.
Although they’re just 29th in explosive offense, the Saints are still sixth in offensive success rate and 10th in offensive DVOA, which shows us that they’re still effective despite not being the high-flying offense of seasons past. With the absence of Thomas and Sanders, we could see Jared Cook and Tre’Quan Smith step up, in addition to the run game.
Kamara has been dominant this season, rushing for 281 and four touchdowns on 61 attempts while hauling in 38 receptions for 395 yards and three touchdowns. Murray hasn’t been a slouch either, rushing for 218 yards and two touchdowns and 52 attempts. The Saints are No. 1 in rushing success rate with 58% of runs graded out as successful, and they face a favorable matchup against a Panthers defense that is 24th in rushing success rate.
The Saints’ defense has looked shaky at times this year, but they’re still eighth in defensive efficiency against the third toughest schedule of opposing offenses. New Orleans has been particularly good at stopping the run with a 43% success rate on rushing plays (fourth) and allowed just 9% of runs to go for 20 or more yards (sixth). Their red-zone defense is a cause for concern, as previously mentioned. Their 85% rate of allowing touchdowns in the red zone is 48.2% worse than the Bears’ league-leading red-zone defense.
The Saints are just 25th in pressure rate this season (20.5%), however they welcome the return of a fully healthy Marcus Davenport, who made his first appearance in Week 5 against the Chargers but played limited snaps.
The combination of Davenport and Cam Jordan on the edge will be instrumental to the success of this Saints defense since Bridgewater has struggled to the tune of a 19.0 passer rating with zero touchdowns and four interceptions against pressure this season.
In last week’s matchup against Chicago, Bridgewater had just a 1.0 passer rating while under pressure. We can look for the Saints to generate more pressure this week, and when doing so, cornerback Janoris Jenkins’ return will be a big boost against Panthers receivers Anderson and Moore.
Heading into the season, oddsmakers projected the Panthers to win just 5.5 games. Despite exceeding expectations thus far with wins over the Justin Herbert-led Chargers, the struggling Falcons and the Cardinals, I’m not sure much has changed.
The Saints are the better team coming off the bye and get Davenport and Jenkins back on defense. From a numbers perspective, the Buccaneers were laying 8.5 points to this same Panthers team a week after catching 3.5 points on the road against the Saints.
Even with the absence of Thomas and Sanders, this line is short. If you can find a -7 or lower on the Saints, this is a good buy-low spot. I’d also recommend adding New Orleans in 6-point teasers along with the Steelers.
PICK: Saints -7