The New Orleans Saints (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) visit the Carolina Panthers (1-0, 1-0) in a divisional bout that figures to have some extra electricity. The Panthers smothered a young New York Jets squad while the Saints dismantled Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Nobody will do a backflip over a 2-0 start. Not when 88 percent of the regular season will still remain. However, the team that wins on Sunday will be in position to plant its flag as an early playoff contender.
The Saints travel to the New England Patriots and host the New York Giants in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively. Meanwhile, the Panthers do the Texas Two-Step with successive stops at the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys.
Market-making book Circa opened the Panthers as 3-point underdogs with a total of 46. However, NC online sportsbooks have moved the total to 44.5 as of Thursday afternoon and moved off the key number.
Both Jameis Winston (1st overall pick in 2015 NFL Draft) and Sam Darnold (3rd overall in 2018) are starring in their second act. Winston delivered five touchdown passes, and while Darnold wasn’t as crisp, he notched a win over his former team.
Sometimes a change of scenery, new voices, and a different organization can unlock the natural talent in a player. It’s one game, so nobody wants to overreact. It’s worth respecting the idea that Winston can be a damn good quarterback this season though.
Darnold — and the Panthers offensive line — may need to show a little more before their bandwagon starts collecting applications. One thing they did well was get the ball to No. 22. Christian McCaffrey handled 30 touches and will continue to be the engine of this offense.
Bettors who bet on NFL win totals shouldn’t ignore the positive effect notching that first win will have for Winston and Darnold.
Panthers Stalking Out Of The Gate
For all of the talent the Panthers boast on offense, it was the defense that made the more lasting impression. The Zach Wilson-led New York Jets are no juggernaut, but Carolina recorded six sacks, an interception, and pitched a shutout for nearly three quarters.
Make no mistake. There is a ton of young talent on the defensive side of the ball as well. After all, the Matt Rhule regime did spend their first eight draft picks on defenders.
The Saints will likely present a stiffer challenge for the Panthers than the young Jets were able to present. It will be an opportunity for the Panthers to put themselves on — or closer to — the national radar.
Injuries And Special Teams Notes
The Saints took some hits during their Week 1 win, and could be without a few key players. Among those expected to miss time include cornerback Marshon Lattimore, defensive end Marcus Davenport, and center Erik McCoy. Meanwhile, Panthers guards Pat Elflein (hip) and John Miller (illness) logged full practices on Thursday. Tackle Taylor Moton (groin) was able to get in a limited session.
Carolina waived kicker Ryan Santoso and signed Zane Gonzalez off of the Lions practice squad. Gonzalez has converted 47 of 57 field attempts — including 4 of 5 from 50-plus — and 72 of 74 extra points since 2019. It’s also worth noting the Panthers’ deployed stud wide receiver DJ Moore for a punt return, an element worth keeping in mind for prospective bettors.
Game Odds & Analysis
Circa opened on the key number of 3 before moving the line to Saints -3.5. That extra bit of cushion could be enticing for Panthers backers, who can get that half point at several shops.
When these two teams met in Week 7 in New Orleans in 2020, the Panthers covered the spread as 7-point dogs. They met again in Week 17, but the Panthers — long removed from Super Bowl Betting odds discussions — were thoroughly overmatched and overwhelmed.
Gamblers looking to bet a side will want to look at Circa where the Panthers are +168 and Southpoint where the Saints are -165.