With their playoff position yet to be decided, the New Orleans Saints will wrap up the regular season with a game against their NFC South rival, the Carolina Panthers. On the road, the Saints are listed as 13.5-point favorites with an over/under of 45 points.
Despite entering Week 17 at 12-3, there’s a chance New Orleans could be playing next week. The Saints need a win combined with a loss by either the Packers or 49ers to earn a first-round bye.
If New Orleans wins and both teams lose, the Saints will find themselves with the top seed in the NFC, giving them a good reason to remain motivated with the NFC South already wrapped up.
Meanwhile, the Panthers will be happy to finally see the season come to an end. Carolina has lost seven in a row, dropping it to 5-10 overall and last in the NFC South.
The Panthers certainly looked like they’ve mentally check out after last week’s 38-6 loss to the Colts. For a team that doesn’t have a permanent head coach at the moment, motivation could be an issue for them despite playing at home.
Carolina gave rookie Will Grier his first career start against the Colts last week, and needless to say, it didn’t go well. Grier completed 27 of his 44 passes, with most of his completions being check downs to Christian McCaffrey.
He also threw three interceptions, setting the Colts up with great field position. To add insult to insult, Carolina’s special teams also allowed a punt to be returned for a touchdown.
Grier will get a chance to immediately put that poor performance behind him in the season finale. Unfortunately, it’s not going to get any easier. The New Orleans defense is better than the one Grier and the Panthers faced in Indianapolis last week.
The Saints undoubtedly have a better pass rush, which figures to be a problem for the young quarterback after he took five sacks last week. The silver lining is that it can’t get much worse for Grier.
Don’t Need the Help
If the Panthers turn the ball over and give up sacks, this game could be over quickly. The New Orleans offense doesn’t need any extra help from the defense these days. The Saints have scored at least 34 points in five of their last six games.
Drew Brees is perhaps playing his best football late in the season and will face a Carolina team that’s conceded at least 29 points in six straight games.
Of course, Brees has plenty of help around him. Michael Thomas is without question the best wide receiver of 2019 and has become a nightmare for all opposing defenses.
Meanwhile, Alvin Kamara appeared to get back on track last week, rushing for 80 yards and two touchdowns while catching six passes against a strong Tennessee defense. If he continues to produce and give the Saints balance, there might be no stopping the New Orleans offense.
It’d be nice for the Panthers to show a little pride in Week 17, especially at home. But things have gotten ugly for Carolina down the stretch, and this game might not be any different.
With the Saints still hoping for a playoff bye, they’ll bring their best effort, making it appropriate to bet on New Orleans covering the 13.5-point spread on the road.