One of the NFC’s best rivalries continues Sunday afternoon as the New Orleans Saints look for their first win of the season against the unbeaten Carolina Panthers. New Orleans struggled mightily on defense in losses to the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots, and now must tangle with a Carolina defense that has surrendered just six points in its first two games. But the Panthers are reeling after losing tight end Greg Olsen to a broken foot.
New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
Point Spread: Panthers -6 Date: Sunday, September 24, 1 p.m. ET Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Point Spread and Betting Analysis
Carolina is favored by nearly a touchdown in this one, and the Panthers’ ability to cover will rest heavily on how their other pass catchers step up in Olsen’s absence. Quarterback Cam Newton has thrown for just 399 yards while the rushing game is averaging less than three yards per carry, so it’s no guarantee that the Panthers will score enough points; Sports Interaction is offering -118 for Carolina under 26.5 points, and that looks like a solid play.
As for the Saints, they’ve gotten off to lousy starts in both games this season, outscored 46-19 in the first half. If you like the Panthers to be in control at the half, you’ll get +360 for a Carolina first-half winning margin of 1-6 points and +333 for a margin of 7-12 points. Sports Interaction bettors are squarely in the Saints’ corner when it comes to the spread, with 71 percent taking the six points. Nearly two-thirds favor the over on a 47-point total.
New Orleans Saints
It’s all about timing – at least, when it comes to the success or struggles of the New Orleans pass offense. Saints quarterback Drew Brees has struggled to establish a rhythm with his new receivers – and his No. 1 target, second-year star Michael Thomas, has seen just one red-zone target so far this season. The return of Willie Snead from suspension will be a major boost, but he won’t be back until Week 4.
The loss of Olsen is a significant one for a Carolina passing game that has struggled to generate much of anything so far. The biggest beneficiary could be rookie running back Christian McCaffrey, who has struggled between the tackles this season but has established himself as a threat in the pass attack with nine catches for 72 yards on 12 targets. If Newton can rely on McCaffrey as a safety valve, it should make life without Olsen a little easier.
Saints vs. Panthers Prediction
Saints 27, Panthers 23