Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: Panthers vs. Saints (1/8/2023) - Taking Vegas

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Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: Panthers vs. Saints (1/8/2023)

By Michael Savio
January 5, 2023
Photo by: AP Images

Carolina Panthers vs New Orleans Saints (1/8 @ 1:00 PM EST)

Spread: Saints -3.5
Money Line: Panthers +151 / Saints -170
Total: 41.5

Overview and Betting Info

On Sunday, the Carolina Panthers (6-10) will head to the Big Easy to take on the New Orleans Saints (7-9). The Panthers won their early season game 22-14, their second win in the last three matchups. Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs, making Sunday the year’s final game regardless of the outcome.

The Panthers are 8-8 against the spread this season but have now covered seven of their last ten. They have gone over the total eight times, including in each of their previous four games.

The Saints are 7-9 versus the spread but have covered three of their last four games. They’ve gone over the total six times but have been under in eight of their last ten games.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers’ offense averages 327.6 yards (27th in NFL) and 21.1 points per game. As bad as their record is, they have won three of their last five and are averaging 26 points per game during that stretch. Their success can be partly attributed to the play of Sam Darnold, who returned as the starter five games ago and has already amassed 1,100 yards and nine combined touchdowns. The veteran is coming off his best game, throwing 341 yards and three touchdowns against the Bucs.

The Carolina receiving corps is led by DJ Moore, who has 878 yards and seven touchdowns. After being held to zero catches against Seattle four weeks ago, he has 273 yards and three touchdowns over his last three games. He joins Terrace Smith (296 yards, 1 TD) and Shi Smith (296 yards, 2 TD) to round out their top pass catchers. Terrace Smith is a significant play threat capable of breaking off a 30+ yards play at any time, while Shi Smith started the season quiet but is playing better with Darnold in at QB (70 yards, 1 TD last week).

The Panthers’ ground game is led by D’Onta Foreman, who has rushed for 846 yards and five touchdowns this season. He’s been averaging 80 yards per game since taking over as the starter, crossing the 100-yard threshold five times. While he’s been a yardage machine, the back has only one touchdown in their last six games. He is joined in the backfield by Chubba Hubbard (397 yards, 2 TD), who has seen a spike in carries over their last five games.

The Panthers defense is allowing 366.8 yards and 22.9 points per game this season. They are led by a talented pass rush consisting of Brian Burns (12.5 sacks, 17 TFL), Marquis Haynes (5 sacks, 7 TFL), and Frankie Luvu (7 sacks, 17 TFL, 105 tackles). Burns and Luvu have been particularly great, and both are tied for fourth in the league in tackles for loss. The secondary is more of the concern, as the Panthers will be without two of their top options in Jaycee Horn (7 PD, 3 INT) and Donte Jackson (2 INT). That means the Panthers will rely heavily on CJ Henderson (2 INT, 6 PD) and Xavier Woods (6 PD, 82 tackles) on Sunday.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints’ offense averages 352.3 yards and 20.2 points per game this season. They are led by Andy Dalton, who has had a forgettable season with 2,700 yards and 17 touchdowns to go with nine interceptions. Sunday will be his first matchup with the Panthers since 2018. Dalton is coming off a game where he completed 80% of his passes, but was sacked six times and he hasn’t thrown a touchdown since December 18th.  

The Saints’ receiving corps is led by Chirs Olave, who has 982 yards and three touchdowns on the season. In their first matchup, the rookie went for 147 yards against the Panthers and has established himself as their top receiver. He is joined by tight end Juwan Johnson (487 yards, 7 TD), who has five touchdowns over their last seven games. Johnson is listed as questionable for Sunday, and it would be a significant loss if he can’t go. We’ll be watching Rashid Shaheed (454 yards, 2 TD), as he is emerging as a favorite target of Dalton with 19 catches over their last five games (6 catches before then).

The New Orleans backfield is led again by Alvin Kamara, who has rushed for 790 yards and two touchdowns this season. While it’s been a disappointing season on the ground, the veteran has been a crucial part of the passing game with 487 yards and two touchdowns. He’s been playing better over their last three games, with 240 combined yards in that span. Kamara is joined by Taysom Hill (551 yards, 7 TD), who has scored in their last two games. Given the state of the passing game, Hill and Kamara’s play will be crucial for the Saints to win on Sunday.

The Saints’ defense allows 338.6 and 20.9 points per game this season. They’ve been incredible as of late, allowing just 13.6 points per game over their last five. A big reason for their success comes from their secondary, which allows the NFL’s third-fewest passing yards (210.6) despite a league-low five interceptions. The unit is led by Tyrann Mathieu, who leads the team with two interceptions to go with seven pass deflections. He joins Marshon Lattimore (4 PD, 1 INT), Alontae Taylor (11 PD), and Paulson Adebo (7 PD) to round out their talented secondary. Up front, the Saints have an intense pass rush thanks to the play of Cameron Jordan (8.5 sacks, 12 TFL), Kaden Elliss (7 sacks, 7 TFL), Demario Davis (6.5 sacks, 9 TFL), and Carl Granderson (5.5 sacks, 9 TFL).

Free Pick: Panthers +3.5

While the Saints’ defense has been incredible lately, the offense continues to struggle. Darnold looked great last week and has given new life to an offense that struggled all season. The Panthers also have the better-receiving corps and a fantastic ground game. While the Saints’ defense will give them problems, the Saints’ poor offense will keep them on the field too much. Since Dalton was sacked six times last week and Carolinas’ top two pass rushers have combined for 34 TFL, we see the Panthers getting pressure on him all game and holding the Saintes to 10 or fewer points.

We’re taking the points to roll with the Panthers here.

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