Panthers vs Saints matchup preview and current betting lines
Two eliminated teams will square off for a rather meaningless game when the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints face off for the regular season finale. This could give some players a chance to showcase their skills as they head toward the offseason.
But other than seeding in the NFL Draft and an audition for some players, there will be little to play for in this game. Then again, we’re talking about divisional rivals who most definitely don’t like each other, so maybe we’ll watch some hardnosed, old-school football.
The Panthers were on the verge of pulling off a miracle turnaround and winning the NFC South division after struggling mightily early in the campaign. But they couldn’t keep that momentum going against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As for the Saints, they did show some signs of promise, especially defensively, but their offense was dead in the water for most of the season, which is far from surprising considering Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry were hurt, and Andy Dalton was their starting QB.
Players to watch:
Chubba Hubbard: Often and rightfully overlooked because of Christian McCaffrey, Panthers’ RB Chubba Hubbard was nothing more than a plug-and-play handcuff for fantasy football purposes. But he’s proven to be quite an efficient runner, and he could use the opportunity to prove that he’s starting-caliber material.
Andy Dalton: Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Andy Dalton will never be a player to watch. However, this might as well be his final start with the New Orleans Saints. So, if he struggles early in the game, there’s a chance we finally get to watch Jameis Winston back on the field.
Week 18 Predictions: NFL Bet of the week on Panthers vs Saints
The opening Panthers vs Saints spread has the Carolina Panthers as 3.5-point underdogs here. That would make sense, given the fact that neither team actually has anything to play for. However, interim coach Steve Wilks wants to prove that he can handle the job full-time, and the same can be said of Sam Darnold.
The Panthers’ never-ending revolving door of quarterbacks has been one of the biggest reasons behind their struggles. But after a terrible start to the campaign, it seems like Sam Darnold has finally turned things around, and he knows this could be his final chance.
Even if he’s not playing in Carolina, a team that has a promising QB in Matt Corral, Darnold needs to finish the season strong to prove that he still belongs in the NFL. That’s motivation enough for him to take this game as a playoff matchup, which is why we feel comfortable riding with the visitors here.
Also, the Panthers were playing the best football in the season before suffering that heart-breaking loss to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Winning the NFC South was nothing to brag about this season, but they still nearly beat the odds and took home that pennant.
The opening Panthers vs Saints odds have this game total sitting at just 41 points. This makes perfect sense, as both these teams are built through their defense, and neither of their offenses has been exactly impressive. Even so, we’re talking about the regular season finale here.
That means that both teams are likely to give their starters a rest at some point in the matchup. Unproven players will get plenty of snaps, which often leads to big, surprising plays, or major miscommunication issues. That could translate to several points for both teams.
There’s absolutely zero motivation or reason to put the body on the line in this seemingly meaningless game. So, unless there’s a player on a contract year or trying to crack the roster, he’s not going to go all-in to tackle someone on the open field to prevent a big gain.
Also, 41 points is a low-scoring total for today’s standards, and both teams have solid playmakers that could break away from their defenders with ease. All things considered, neither of these teams needs to do a whole lot to help this game to way over the total.