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Saints To Move Closer To Securing Home-Field Advantage

December 14, 2018

The New Orleans Saints have been handed a new lease of life in the NFC playoff race ahead of their clash against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

New Orleans were seemingly in trouble 14-3 down to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road, but they managed to rally late in the game to secure a vital 28-14 victory.

The triumph proved to be a huge moment in the battle for the number one seed in the NFC Conference as the Los Angeles Rams lost to the Chicago Bears, handing control of the home-field advantage through the post-season back to the Saints.

Sean Payton’s men know if they win their remaining three games of the campaign, the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will go through the Superdome.

Carolina have fallen apart since week 10 of the campaign. The Panthers were sitting at 6-2, but have now lost their last five matches in a row to leave Ron Rivera fighting for his job. Their defeat on the road at the Cleveland Browns proved to be a microcosm of their season.

The Panthers’ defense has suffered a decline, while their offense has not been good enough to pick up the slack. Cam Newton is still battling a shoulder injury, but and his team-mates need to rally as they’re not out of the running for a place in the Wildcard Round yet.

Brees will lead the Saints to a vital win

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers were seemingly on the way to challenging the Saints for the NFC South title. At 6-2 they faced a tough game on the road at the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rivera’s men were crushed at Heinz Field, slumping to a 52-21 defeat. The loss to the Steelers has broken the club as they dropped five matches on the bounce to slip out of contention for the playoffs.

Carolina are still in with a chance of securing a spot in the Wildcard Round, but will have to win their remaining games. It involves beating New Orleans not just on home soil, but on the road at the Superdome in the final week of the campaign. The Panthers do not seem capable of producing a run of that nature, which could result in the firing of Rivera.

Rivera has had a long stretch at the club, reaching the Super Bowl in the 2015 season, only for his team to fall to defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos. Carolina have performed well under his tenure, although new owner David Tepper could pull the trigger on an overhaul of the franchise. Beating the Saints could save his position, but if they were to lose out, Rivera’s time at Bank of America Stadium may come to an end.

Newton has been struggling with a shoulder injury, which has affected his level of performance. The Panthers’ defense has been underwhelming and in need of an injection of youth in their front seven. There’s enough experience on the team to make a burst, but whether the quality is there in key positions is another matter.

New Orleans Saints

For the second week on the bounce, the Saints’ offense was struggling on the road. Their defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys in week 13 exposed the limitations of the team outside of Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. After scoring only three points in the first half, New Orleans’ special teams gave life to the offense by blocking a punt, allowing Brees to connect with Zach Line for his only touchdown throw of the game. Mark Ingram and Brees found the endzone on the ground, while Will Lutz added another field goal to ice the contest.

The Saints’ offense deserved to be bailed out by the other areas of the team, but there will be a slight concern for Payton that the unit has been stymied. Outside of Thomas and Kamara there’s not a quality option for Brees to turn to with the ball downfield. Tre’Quan Smith has had his moments as have Benjamin Watson, Austin Carr and Tommylee Lewis. However, the depth of weapons will be tested in the playoffs and it’s important that the Saints are able to play the games on their terms and on home soil.

It was vital that the defense stood up in the second half to hold the Buccaneers in check. New Orleans’ defense has been up-and-down, boasting a strong pass-rush with Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins. The coverage downfield has been inconsistent, but the secondary were able to rise to the occasion to limit Tampa’s talented wideouts. They need to remain at that level for the rest of the campaign.

Head to Head

Games Played: 47 Carolina Panthers: 24 New Orleans Saints: 23

The two teams are separated by one game in the matchups since the Panthers entered the NFL in the 1995 season. New Orleans have managed to address the balance over the last year, winning the three contests between the teams last season, including the first playoff matchup. Brees and company secured the win in the Wildcard Round in the Superdome by a 31-26 scoreline. Although, New Orleans’ defense had to hold firm late in the game to fend off a comeback attempt from Newton.

Brees has played 23 matches against the Panthers in his career and has thrown for 6,694 yards and 46 touchdowns to just 19 interceptions, boasting a 12-11 record. Newton is 7-7 in his 14 matches against the Saints, throwing for 3,111 yards and 21 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

Betting Options

The Panthers have been a mess of late and even on home soil they’ve been vulnerable, losing to the Seattle Seahawks last time out. New Orleans have been rolling and have been handed a second chance to secure the number one seed. They’ll not want to miss out and will be determined to get over the line to control the NFC playoff picture.

Brees should be able to carve up the Panthers’ struggling defense. Carolina without tight end Greg Olsen and Newton at 100% will not be able to put the points on the board to match them. Back Payton’s men for the win at odds of -270  with TopBet, while back them also on the spread at -10 at odds of 31/20  with 888Sport. The over/under line for total points has been set at 51.5 points – back the over at odds of -110  with BetOnline.

Tips Summary

New Orleans Saints To Beat Carolina Panthers
Monday 17th December 2018 20:20 ET (Tuesday 18th December 2018 01:20 GMT)
Odds: -270

New Orleans Saints -10 Spread
Monday 17th December 2018 20:20 ET (Tuesday 18th December 2018 01:20 GMT)
Odds: 31/20

Over 51.5 Total Points To Be Scored
Monday 17th December 2018 20:20 ET (Tuesday 18th December 2018 01:20 GMT)
Odds: -110

  • Cam Newton
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Drew Brees
  • New Orleans Saints
  • NFL

    About the author

    Simon Sinclair
    Simon Sinclair

    Sports Writer

    Simon is a freelance sports writer from the UK. He passionately writes about all kinds of sports, sharing his predictions on everything from the latest cricket matches and golf tournaments to major horse racing events and popular American sports.