Saints vs. Panthers NFL Picks: Side With Carolina -3 With Brees' Status Uncertain for New Orleans

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 11:50 PM GMT

Saints QB Drew Brees has a bruised shoulder according to Dr. James Andrews, but he sounds like he wants to play on Sunday against the Panthers in Charlotte. What's the right NFL pick in this game?

This is a big NFC South game, maybe more so for the Louisiana visitors who are off to an ugly 0-2 start. But with Carolina 2-0, at Home and feeling good about themselves, even if Brees plays and shines, can the Saints win at Carolina? They did last season, but that was then and this is now so we best find a decent approach to this game from a Side perspective and offer up an NFL pick early enough in the week before those dogs of war start barking.

 

Odds Overview
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers [Sunday 18:00] (FOX, NFL RedZone, Directv 711 (US); Sky Sports 2/HD (UK); 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT): The New Orleans Saints (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS) head to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sunday afternoon for this crucial Week 3 NFC South duel against the host Carolina Panthers (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) in what’s a must-win situation for the visiting Saints, although they may actually have bigger problems. The Point Spreads on this game currently (Tuesday afternoon) are funny, in that they range from the Panthers being 3- (5Dimes, The Greek, Wynn Las Vegas), 3½- (SportsInteraction) or even 7½-point (CG Technology) favorites in this game. (You read that last number right.) There may even be an -18½ somewhere on one of the moons of Jupiter. We’ll check.

The Total here has been set at 45½ (Wynn Las Vegas) with Carolina being installed as -175 favorites on the Moneyline with New Orleans priced at +155 on the takeback, before those odds were taken down, awaiting the word on the status of Saints QB Drew Brees (Shoulder; more below). The Carolina Panthers Team Total Points, New Orleans Saints Team Total Points and other Prop bets will be up later in the week when oddsmakers figure out if Brees is going to play or not and when those other numbers are usually posted. Expectations on the Team Total Points are Panthers 23½ or 22½ and Saints 21½ or 20½. The Advanced Line for this game—put out by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook here in Sin City on Tuesdays or Wednesdays—had Carolina open as 3-point favorites with -120 juice.

 

New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints (7-9 SU, 401 PF-424 PA in 2014) are not only off to a horrible start, but starting QB Drew Brees (55-47-2 ATS at Home) is nursing a bruised Shoulder, and on Tuesday, the star New Orleans QB learned from Dr. James Andrews that he only had a Bruised Rotator Cuff, and Brees said that there was “a reasonable possibility” he would play here on Sunday against the Panthers. The comments from Brees seem a little more positive about his potential playing in this game Sunday, especially when compared to Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (“I feel OK.”), although if both go, it could be like real gambling, especially with both having 0-2 starts. Like Detroit, the Saints have to have the Win here. But unlike the Lions, New Orleans will be playing on the Road. It sounds bad, and that’s because it is bad. Scary bad.

Besides the injury to Brees—who was listed as Doubtful before the Dr. Andrews news on Tuesday—New Orleans also had hurts to LB Dannell Ellerbe (Toe, Questionable) and has six Defensive players either out injured indefinitely or currently on the Injured-Reserve List (S Jairus Byrd, S Rafael Bush, CB Keenan Lewis, CB PJ Williams, LB Anthony Spencer, LB Davis Tull). So the Defense (allowed 26+ ppg in 2014) is all banged up, the Offense has scored just 38 points and your aging, 36-year-old future Hall of Fame QB has a nasty Shoulder problem. So how’s your day going?

Even if Brees does start here and not backup QB Luke McCown, the Saints (100/1 to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) only have so many decent Skill Position players on this Roster. WRs Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks, RB Mark Ingram and TEs Josh Hill and Ben Wilson are the main men in New Orleans, but from the looks of it, this could be a very long year in The Big Easy with maybe even the paltry NFC South not being able to hide this team’s devolution and potential disintegration. The Saints can turn things around this year, but with this Roster, this zest for the game and a QB who may have a serious shoulder problem in the long run, things are looking pretty grey for New Orleans. Who Dat? Dat’s Father Time knocking on the front door, brother.

 

Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers (7-8-1, 339 PF-374 PA in 2014) are a much better team than the General Public thinks, and that’s been the story for the last couple of seasons. Ask the almost two-time Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks about the Panthers and they’ll tell you what’s up, Suzie. Here against New Orleans at Home in Charlotte, the Panthers (40/1 NFL odds to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) and QB Cam Newton (19-16-1 ATS at Home) should be able to score at least three TDs and get a couple of FGs and easily top the reeling Saints, who may be the worst team in the NFL...all of a sudden. Last week, after beating the Jaguars in Jacksonville, 20-9 in Week 1, the Panthers defeated the Houston Texans 24-17 here in Carolina in their Home opener in Week 2 as Ted Ginn and Corey Brown caught TD passes from Newton and the Carolina QB somersaulted into the End Zone for another Panthers score. There is no Handicapping Weight or number of points one can apply to NFL QB’s doing somersaults in End Zones, but it seems to be a really fantastic thing as it actually displays the Health, Vitality and Durability of a team’s Quarterback.

Odds are the Lions' Matt Stafford or the Saints' Drew Brees won’t be somersaulting into the End Zone any time soon, unless maybe in the depths of their R.E.M. sleep cycles. Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Expect RB James Stewart (35 rushes, 118 yards) to be worked early on and for TE Greg Olsen (7 receptions, 81 yards) to possibly get a TD here on Sunday afternoon. And only the New York Jets (17 points) have allowed less points his season than the Panthers (26 points), and when team’s get off to good starts defensively, they try even harder to prevent opponents from scoring—especially when you rank #1 in the NFC.

So expect the Saints and whomever is their QB on Sunday to have (more) trouble scoring here on Tobacco Road. And with former Chicago Bears LB Ron Rivera (38-30-1 ATS) as the Panthers underrated Head Coach, it’s no wonder this team always seems very solid defensively and in TO Margins (+2). This is really a pretty good, consistent and silliness-free professional football team, even without the services of WR Kelvin Benjamin (Knee, I-R). Besides Benjamin’s injury, the Panthers are also concerned with injuries to LB Luke Kuechly (Concussion), TE Richie Brockel (Shoulder) and talented DT Star Lotulelei (Foot), and all three are listed as Questionable for this game against the Saints on Sunday afternoon.

 

Recent Relevant Series Trends and Game Expectations
Last season, the New Orleans Saints covered both meetings, winning 28-10 as 3-point chalks in New Orleans in the first showdown, and then losing, but covering, as 3½-point underdogs in a 19-17 loss here at Charlotte. The Panthers are 3-1 ATS the L4 meetings here at Home at Bank of america Stadium against New Orleans and this game can be handicapped with or without the availability of Brees as host Carolina should win by double digits and no spread should be near that number for this game.

Expect Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (14-8 ATS vs. NFC South) and Carolina to jump out to a quiet 3-0 (SU record) start here over the bumbling Saints (188 Penalty yards) and a cautious Brees or a deer-in-the-headlight-eyed second-string QB Luke McCown (68.3 career QBR), with fear of the also 2-0 Atlanta Falcons in the back of their mind. Hush, hush. Keep it down now, voices carry.

This is a massive game and much, much, much more important game for New Orleans, so expect Head Coach Sean Payton (72-66-2 ATS) and Brees to press the Shoulder issue—77% chance in my mind—and he likely gets the start here in a desperate attempt to get that first Win. But with a suspect Defense, thinnish Skill Position spots and the loyal Charlotte crowd looking for a second straight Home win—and against a lessor team—expect the Panthers to make Life even more miserable for the Saints here. We’ll have a Preview and prediction on the Total in this game later in the week, so please don’t look at the prediction below. And if you do, quickly forget the predicted final score. Like, poof! Oh well. You looked. Very well then.

Predicted Final Score: Carolina Panthers 27 New Orleans Saints 12

NFL Pick: Panthers -3 -120 (Wynn Las Vegas)

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