For the Carolina Panthers, this looked like a promising season; that is, after the first couple of weeks. The defending NFC South champions had to go without quarterback Cam Newton in the season opener, but still beat Tampa Bay 20-14, and then shut down the powerful Detroit Lions’ offense in a 24-7 victory. Even though Newton has gotten healthier, and has even started to run a little, the season has gone downhill for this squad, and it is only the unwillingness of division rivals to win games that has kept them at the top of the heap. But America’s Bookie customers know that lead is indeed in trouble, as the New Orleans Saints come to town with an opportunity to take first place in the Thursday night NFL game. Football betting action gets underway at 8:25 PM ET at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Currently Carolina has a 3-4-1 straight-up record, while New Orleans is 3-4. Carolina is actually ahead of the division by a matter of percentage points (.438 to .429). By virtue of their 37-37 tie with Cincinnati, it isn’t likely that Carolina will be involved in, well, a tie, with another club in the division. They are slumping; there is no question about it, as they have one a single game over their last six. The fact that they’ve covered three of their last four is little consolation. And last week’s defeat suffered at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks, who just don’t seem like themselves these days, was a bitter pill to swallow. They catch the Saints as New Orleans is coming off its biggest win of the year, a 44-23 victory over Green Bay last Sunday night.
In the football betting lines that have been established on this game by the people at America’s Bookie, the Saints are slight favorite in Charlotte:
New Orleans Saints -3 (+100)
Carolina Panthers +3 (-120)
Over 49.5 points -110
Under 49.5 points -110
The essential problem for Carolina is not a whole lot different as it was last season, in that this is just not a real dangerous offensive team. With the rib and leg injuries Newton has had, and the caution the coaching staff undoubtedly wants him to take, there is no way he should be just three yards off the team rushing lead. Yet there he is. Admittedly Carolina has suffered injuries in the backfield, and even with Jonathan Stewart healthy enough to play, that is a tailback who may have “hit the wall.”
Football bettors also recognize that even though Newton can depend on tight end Greg Olson (42 catches, 509 yards) and has gotten excellent work out of first-round draft choice Kelvin Benjamin (38 receptions, 571 yards), there is no threatening presence at the other wide receiver slot. That’s about the same case as it was in the 2013 season, as Steve Smith often got way too much attention from the opposing defense.
The big difference with the Panthers this season, as America’s Bookie customers are well aware, is the fact that the defense is slumping. This was one of the best units in the entire NFL last year, but they are not putting up good numbers at all. In fact, let’s go over some of them: Carolina has allowed the opposition to complete 69% of its passes for 16 touchdowns. The defensive front, which is without Greg Hardy (who has been suspended relative to his domestic abuse charges) has allow the opposition 5.2 yards per rushing attempt, and opponents are gaining six yards per play overall, which contributes to a 47% success rate on third down. Much of this works into what the Saints want to do, obviously, as New Orleans has been a phenomenal 51% in converting third downs on offense.
Those analyzing the football betting lines for Thursday night also have to wonder about the psychological effects of blowing an opportunity to beat Seattle at home last weekend. The Seahawks have not been playing particularly well, and Carolina did lead much of the way. But Newton turned the ball over twice and Carolina amassed only 266 yards without any touchdowns. We will see if they can bounce back on either side of the football.