Home Field To See Saints Power Past Panthers

The New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers will meet for the third time of the season in their NFL Wildcard Round clash.

The Saints secured the NFC South title even with their defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final game of the regular term. Carolina’s loss at the Atlanta Falcons gave Sean Payton’s men the crown and the fourth seed, handing them home-field advantage for the contest.

New Orleans have returned to the playoffs for the first time three seasons. Time is running out for quarterback Drew Brees to add to his legacy, with his sights set on a second Super Bowl. The club have taken the pressure off the 38-year-old this season, limiting his amount of attempts downfield.

Running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have become the focal point of the offense and will dictate the success of the Saints in the post-season.

The defense has improved from the putrid units Payton has sent out in previous years, but injuries to key players could prove fatal in their playoff push, especially against quality offenses.

Carolina have had a peculiar season, which has seen the departure of general manager Dave Gettleman and will end with owner Jerry Richardson selling the team.

Ron Rivera’s men have managed to overcome the distractions to post an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. Cam Newton’s form has been up-and-down, while the defense has been at the high standard produced in recent seasons by the club.

However, the Panthers are in the post-season and anything can happen from this point. The Saints have had their number this term, winning both matches. It will be a massive challenge for Carolina to produce the victory on the road to advance.

New Orleans Saints

Kamara has eased the pressure on Brees

The Saints returned to the formula that won them the Super Bowl in the 2009 campaign. In their triumph that season, the running threat of Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush alleviated the pressure on Brees to throw downfield. Both players played crucial roles in guiding the club to the Vince Lombardi trophy, although Brees was named Super Bowl MVP.

New Orleans relied too heavily on their quarterback after the fact, with Payton’s men falling short in their post-season surges and their three-straight years with a 7-9 record. The Saints traded away one of the most potent weapons in the passing game – Brandin Cooks.

With the pick attained from the New England Patriots they drafted an offensive tackle, while running back Kamara was selected later in the 2017 Draft. Kamara has been nothing short of sensational with the ball in hand this season. His kick return for a touchdown against the Buccaneers, highlighted his explosiveness in the open field.

Ingram has been equally important gaining the hard yards through the tackles, allowing Brees to pick his moments in the passing game with Michael Thomas. Those four players alone could be enough to send the Saints on a deep surge to the playoffs.

The depth of options beyond may be a concern against stronger offense when the match drifts out of their control. The defense also has questions marks, despite the stellar play of defensive Cameron Jordan and rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore. The duo will give their side the opportunity to be competitive, although a number of late-season injuries could expose Payton’s men.

Their experience will stand them in good stead if they are able to plow through the Panthers. However, they will need to be flawless to give Payton and Brees a chance for a second ring.

Carolina Panthers

Newton has been inconsistent

The Panthers have managed to battle through a myriad of issues to reach the post-season. Their front office has undergone a complete overhaul with Gettleman leaving before training camp. A scandal involving Richardson has resulted in their owner putting the team up for sale. Amid the chaos, Rivera has kept his side on course even after trading away Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills.

Newton and the running backs have kept the offense on song, with Christian McCaffrey beginning to display the ability that saw him selected eighth overall in the 2017 Draft. Devin Funchess has provided the threat in the endzone, scoring eight touchdowns over the course of the campaign. Funchess, McCaffrey and Jonathan Stewart have to ease the pressure on Newton in the post-season.

His performances have been up-and-down throughout his career, although the current campaign has been a microcosm of his tenure in the NFL. The 28-year-old was extremely poor in his side’s defeat to the Falcons last time out, throwing three costly interceptions.

However, Newton has also produced brilliant outings against the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers, throwing a combined seven touchdowns in the two games. Should the Panthers get the good version of their quarterback they are more than capable of a run to the Super Bowl.

Defensively, Julius Peppers has enjoyed a fine season on his return to Carolina. The 37-year-old has notched 11 sacks, leading the pass-rush, while providing solid leadership on the field. Mario Addison and Kawann Short have also been a force along with the linebacking corps of Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson and Thomas Davis. There’s enough talent on the defense to stop Brees and company, although they’ve come up short twice already this season. They have a point to prove.

Betting Options

The Saints have had the edge on their rivals this season, recording victories in both of their contests. As a result, Payton and his side will be confident of reaching the Divisional Round. New Orleans could have issues pushing around the Panthers’ defensive line in the running game. That is where the contest will be decided. Should Ingram and Kamara thrive and rack up the yards, the Saints will be booking their place in the NFC’s final four.

However, Newton is capable of exposing New Orleans’ secondary downfield, while there will also be openings in the running game. It should be a close match, but due to home-field advantage take the Saints at odds of -278   with BetOnline. Payton’s men could run away with the match should they get rolling – therefore back them to beat the -6.5 spread at odds of -110   with BetVictor. Due to the problems on both defenses limiting points take the over on 50.5 points to be scored at +125   with 888Sport. Newton should find the endzone at least once on the ground in a high-scoring affair – take him to score anytime at +200   with 888Sport.

Tips Summary

New Orleans Saints To Beat Carolina Panthers
Sunday 7th January 2018 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)
Odds: -278

Take -6.5 Spread New Orleans Saints
Sunday 7th January 2018 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)
Odds: -110

Over 50.5 Points To Be Scored
Sunday 7th January 2018 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)
Odds: +125

Cam Newton To Score Touchdown Anytime
Sunday 7th January 2018 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)
Odds: +200

Cam Newton
Carolina Panthers
Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints
NFL

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