Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 2:45 PM EST.
8:15 PM EST. The plight of the Panthers has been well documented, as their five-game losing streak has been the hottest topic for the pundits to pick apart, but despite their lack of success in the standings, this team still has a shot to make the playoffs with three games to go. A closer look shows that Carolina has probably deserved a better fate, as it was outgained just once during this winless stretch. The Panthers were no doubt the better team in its losses to the Lions, Seahawks and Buccaneers, but they lost the all-important turnover battle in those games. Four interceptions by Cam Newton in that contest in Tampa was the worst of the bunch, but as we've discussed many times before, winning or losing the turnover battle is not a skill and those bounces usually even out over time. Last Sunday, in Cleveland, the Cats were in the driver's seat and appeared to have scored a go-ahead touchdown, but the play was called back on an offensive penalty. You know what happened next, as the Panthers imploded and had to settle for a field goal. With the momentum lost, Carolina never scored again, as the Browns took over the four quarter and won 26-20.
Situationally speaking, spotting points on the road in a division game can be like playing with fire and when you add in the pomp and circumstance that comes with hosting Monday Night Football, it's even more dangerous. This game is by far the biggest of the Panthers season and the timing couldn’t be better for taking back inflated points. Last year, the Saints were five-point pooches in Charlotte. In 2016, they were 3½-point dogs and in 2015, New Orleans was taking back double-digits. While every year is different and independent of the previous years, the number this year is based on some very recent misleading results. That means the market sees losses as losses while we see a very good team with some very bad luck recently. In one of those five losses for instance, the Panthers absolutely dominated the Seahawks but lost 30-27. It's not as if the Saints are peaking here late in the season either.
New Orleans was at one point the hottest team in the league and everything was coming up Brees, as their future Hall-of-Fame quarterback was setting records left and right. However, the last three week has not seen the Saints playing at their best. It all started on Thanksgiving night, when they beat the Falcons 31-17, but did not look good doing it despite getting the win and cover. A 13-10 loss to the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football looks a little worse today than it did at the time after Dallas was shut out by the Colts and last week's 28-14 win over the Bucs was a real sweat until Tampa unraveled in the second half. Brees was outgunned by both Matt Ryan and Dak Prescott and the Saints were outgained in both of those games over the Falcons and 'Boys respectively. That the Saints seemingly covered easily as double-digit chalk down in Tampa has lulled the market into a false sense of security. The Saints are still the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl, which just shows how inflated their stock really is.
To recap, the Saints are 11-1 over the past 12 weeks (the market and media LOVES, love, loves wins) while the Panthers are 0-5 over the past five weeks. Furthermore, the last time the Panthers were featured in prime time, they got massacred by Pittsburgh, 52-21 while the Panthers had a recent string of blowout wins (51-14, 48-7 and 34-17) that resonates loudly. Take all that into consideration and ask yourself are the points inflated on the dog or deflated on the favorite? The answer is where one’s money should be.
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CAROLINA +6 +101 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.02)