Saints vs. Panthers Odds & NFL Predictions For Week 2: Sunday’s Underdog Offers Betting Value
Getty Images. Pictured: Sam Darnold (left) and Jameis Winston.
|Saints Odds||-3 (-115)|
|Panthers Odds||+3 (-105)|
|Moneyline||-180 / +155|
|Time||1 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
The Saints travel to Charlotte for an important early-season matchup in the NFC South on Sunday afternoon.
Each team is coming off a big performance in Week 1 that led to a victory. Can Jameis Winston continue his resurgence, or will Carolina’s plucky young defense step up to the task?
Let’s dig in.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints’ season could not have started any better than a dominant 38-3 win over the Packers in Jacksonville.
The New Orleans defense impressed against an offense that was extremely potent in 2020 and has the MVP from last season. Superstar cornerback Marshon Lattimore held Davante Adams to just 56 yards (and negative EPA/target) and forced Green Bay into the worst offensive performance of any team not named the Jets in Week 1.
This was a horrible showing by Green Bay’s offense, which had close to a worst-case-scenario kind of performance against New Orleans. The Packers certainly felt the effects of losing center Corey Linsley in free agency and not having left tackle David Bakhtiari (torn ACL), as the Saints pressured Aaron Rodgers on 21% of his snaps without blitzing much.
Offensively, the story for the Saints was ball control and dominating the line of scrimmage.
New Orleans ran 41 plays in the first half to Green Bay’s 21, and the fatigue set in for the Packers defense in the swampy heat of Jacksonville.
Sean Payton and Co. put Winston in a great position to succeed. The former No. 1 overall pick had a 7.7 average depth of target (aDoT) — that number went down to 4.8 without a 50-yard bomb to Deonte Harris — and he efficiently distributed the ball down the field. I was impressed with Winston’s ability to get out of the pocket, as well, as he ran for 39 yards without forcing the ball down the field.
Carolina’s win over the Jets could have easily had a similar score line to the Saints’ game against Green Bay.
Just look at the first half, after which the Panthers led 16-0. Carolina could’ve easily been up as many as four touchdowns. The Panthers fumbled on the five-yard line, settled for a 22-yard field goal and shockingly punted on the Jets’ 33.
New York, meanwhile, had a grand total of 58 first-half yards, and the Panthers’ pass rush made life extremely difficult for rookie Zach Wilson, who was sacked six times in the game. While the Jets were able to string together some stops and late touchdown drives in the second half, the overall yards-per-play advantage for Carolina was 6.0-4.2.
Put all that together, and it sounds like a game you’d expect the Panthers to win by far more than five points most of the time.
Sam Darnold wasn’t perfect, but his performance was encouraging. He was not afraid to target the Jets’ weak points in the secondary and made some nice throws down the field, as well as making no turnover-worthy plays, according to PFF.
The Panthers’ offensive line was a bit shaky, which was to be expected, but Darnold hung in there well and graded out as well above average under pressure. It’s a tiny sample, but the play-calling and weapons available in Carolina exceed anything he had while with the Jets.
The youthful Panthers defense won’t get the credit they deserve given the perceived weakness of the Jets, but this was still a dominant performance. The defensive line absolutely thrashed the Jets offensive line, pressuring Wilson on one-third of his dropbacks and forcing the No. 2 overall pick into multiple turnover-worthy plays.
Carolina’s tackling needs to improve going forward and losing nickel CB Myles Hartsfield will hurt, but the Panthers have depth at safety to help mitigate that loss.
The Carolina defense had a strong Week 1 performance against a bad unit, and I believe they are well-positioned to have some success again this week against a New Orleans offense that is now overrated.
The Saints have a good offensive line, but that unit is now without center Erik McCoy, which makes the interior somewhat suspect. Winston was only under pressure seven times against Green Bay, and I don’t see New Orleans replicating that type of protection this week.
Furthermore, the Saints wide receiver corps does not have significant advantages over Carolina’s cornerbacks. Stopping Alvin Kamara will be a challenge, but the Panthers have a strong pair of linebackers in Shaq Thompson and Jermaine Carter. Thompson was a rockstar in coverage against the Jets.
As well as the Saints defense played, Carolina has some matchup advantages in the passing game. New Orleans may be missing Lattimore, who was largely responsible for eliminating Adams last week and hasn’t practiced in full this week because of a hand injury.
If their newly extended star corner does miss the game, the Saints will have to rely on rookie Paulson Adebo and recently acquired Bradley Roby at cornerback. Adebo played well in Week 1 and may be legit, but Roby is just starting to practice with the defense.
Carolina’s wide receivers are loaded with D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson — and you know Christian McCaffrey will also be a handful running routes.
Defensively, New Orleans is banged up. Linebacker Kwon Alexander missed practice on Thursday, and the Saints will definitely be without defensive end Marcus Davenport. Without Davenport, Cameron Jordan and a handful of young players who have not shown much in their careers will have to pick up the load.
Carolina also gets starting right guard Jon Miller back from the COVID list. He will replace Dennis Daley, who was Carolina’s worst offensive lineman in pass-blocking scenarios against the Jets.
New Orleans deserves to be favored in this game because of its top-end talent and coaching staff. The Saints were rightly upgraded by the market after their dominant performance against Green Bay and might be a playoff team.
However, the Saints appear to be limping into this game because of key injuries on defense. Keep an eye on Lattimore’s status after he was listed as questionable, which is grim for New Orleans.
Star tackle Taylor Moton was added to Carolina’s injury report on Thursday, but is expected to play. With Moton, the Panthers will be extremely competitive against a banged-up Saints defense, especially up front.
I’m going to back Carolina here. If the injury report breaks in favor of the Panthers, I’d suggest moving the wager up to a full unit. I’d bet this with juice at -115 or better.
Pick: Carolina +3.5 (-110) at BetMGM (0.75 units)