Saints Panthers Preview

FIRST PLACE AT STAKE IN NFC SOUTH, WHERE NOBODY HAS A WINNING RECORD!

It’s not really a surprise that Thursday Night’s NFL clash between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers looms very large in the NFC South race. First place is at stake between two teams who both made the playoffs last season. Carolina won the South before losing its playoff opener to San Francisco. Wildcard New Orleans won on the road at Philadelphia before falling on the road to eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle.

New Orleans has played seven games so far and had a bye, while Carolina has been on the field through all eight weeks of the season. What should the records be? 5-2 vs. 6-2? Or maybe 4-3 vs. 5-3? How about 3-4 for the visitor...and 3-4-1 for the host!

The two best teams in the NFC South have losing records!

CURRENT NFC SOUTH STANDINGS
Carolina 3-4-1
New Orleans 3-4
Atlanta 2-6
Tampa Bay 1-6

Atlanta has been a huge disappointment for the second year in a row. Tampa Bay was thought by many to have a shot at .500 this year under new head coach Lovie Smith. But, they’ve been a doormat as well. It’s possible that it will only take EIGHT wins to win the division this season. And, if New Orleans doesn’t figure out how to play well on the road, it’s possible that 7-9 or 7-8-1 will get the job done.

How did things get so bad?! Let’s check JIM HURLEY’S indicator stats for some clues...

Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
New Orleans: 3-4 (#22 schedule in USA Today)
Carolina: 3-4-1 (#8 schedule in USA Today)

You can blame strength of schedule in the case of Carolina. They’ve had it much tougher. You could have deduced that just from the past three weeks when they faced playoff teams from last season Cincinnati, Green Bay, and Seattle. New Orleans has had it relatively easy so far. But, they did start to look like their old selves last week vs. Green Bay. THAT version of the Saints is a lot better than 3-4. They need to find that form more than once every two months.

Yards-Per-Play
New Orleans: 6.4 on offense, 6.2 on defense
Carolina: 5.2 on offense, 6.0 on defense

Big troubles here for Carolina. The defense has fallen apart. Last year’s team made the playoffs because of elite defense. They were in the neighborhood of Seattle and San Francisco on that side of the ball. This year, bad news even after you adjust for strength of schedule. Big edge for the Saints in yards-per-play differential. Though, let’s remember that vintage Saints should mean a lot higher than +0.2.

Turnover Differential
New Orleans: -5
Carolina: +5

Carolina has hung around the race thanks to a positive turnover differential. Cam Newton hasn’t had the urge to gamble as he tries to recover from banged up ribs. Drew Brees is forcing too many bad passes, while his defense isn’t doing much to force miscues from other teams. Will those differentials hold up through the second half of the season? Hard to see New Orleans as a playoff team with a negative differential. Carolina can keep playing the percentage game, but needs to get more stops from its defense.

Market Performance
New Orleans: 3-4 ATS
Carolina: 5-3 ATS

Amazingly, Carolina is still making money for backers amidst its big step backward from last season’s divisional title. The market was expecting a BIG drop-off because of personnel changes and “regression” to the mean. If you throw out the fatigue game at Green Bay that came after the five-quarter tie in Cincinnati, the Panthers are 5-2 ATS. The Saints are too mistake-prone to be trusted, but too talented to fade with confidence most weeks.

Current Line: New Orleans by 2.5, total of 49

That price suggests that the market once again believes in the Saints after that Sunday Night win over the Packers. Home field is worth 2-3 points in the NFL, and New Orleans is the visitor here. That means they’d be about -4.5 or -5 on a neutral field, and maybe as high as -8.5 at home (!). Have oddsmakers and early bettors overreacted to last week? Or, are the Saints about to run roughshod over the division in the second half of the season?

JIM HURLEY has some thoughts about that. You can purchase the final word for Thursday, including Saints/Panthers and Florida State/Louisville in the colleges, right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about combination packages that include football and the just-started NBA season.

Football previews continue Friday in the NOTEBOOK. Here’s the weekend schedule...

Friday: College Football Preview...#4 Auburn at #7 Ole Miss
Sunday: NFL Sunday Night Preview...Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers on NBC
Monday: NFL Monday Night Preview...Indianapolis Colts at NY Giants on ESPN

Will the Saints go marching to GET THE MONEY, or will CAROLINA CASH be the theme of the night? The man with the answers is WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

20
Sep

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