NFL Playoffs Wk 1 Panthers Saints

As one of the few NFL franchises that Roger Goodell has gone out of his way to cripple in the wake of unexpected success, New Orleans has been itching to get back into the thick of a deep playoff run. And right now, even though they started the season in the trash heap of Super Bowl odds at +5000, Sean Payton and company are one of the strongest teams left standing (and perhaps the only true contenders in the injury-plagued NFC race). As such, the Saints revenge tour could spell doom for the Panthers in the marquee game of Wildcard Weekend. They’re close behind the Patriots at most Vegas sportsbooks at +750 odds to win this season’s championship, and they’re at +400 to win the NFC.

By some measures, this could be Drew Brees’ last hurrah, as the veteran and future hall-of-famer is supposedly on the downswing of a stellar, record-breaking career. By his standards, his “paltry” 4334 passing yards represent his fewest in 12 years, and his 23 TD total is the third lowest of his career. Of course, much of that is due to the Saints’ newfound running game, which is fifth in the league for total yardage and leads the NFL with 23 touchdowns. In other words, some NFL betting analysts see a lull and a falloff for Brees, while others see a more refined and patient signal caller with more offensive tools at his disposal than ever before.

If you’re looking to bet on the Panthers vs. Saints and find yourself in this latter group, the game’s 7-point spread favoring the Saints is likely enticing. Carolina’s defense isn’t as stout as in years past, and even though both teams are 11-5 on the year, Nola seems like a much more complete club on both sides of the ball. You should probably expect a high-scoring game, too, as the Panthers have proven to be pretty adept at finding the end zone behind a maturing Cam Newton at the helm. Currently, Bovada odds on the Panthers at Saints matchup has the over/under set at 48 points, which seems awfully low for two teams that are going to be gunning for the pylons for 60 straight minutes of action. And don’t write off Carolina, either. The spread might be a bit risky, but if you’re thinking upset, BetOnline Panthers odds payout +240 on the straight moneyline.

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No matter what happens, USA online sportsbooks knows this one’s shaping up to be the game of the wildcard round. Personally, I hope that the Saints get all the way to the big game, and I hope they meet the Patriots there, blow for blow. It would be delightful to see Goodell have to eat crow yet again and hand over trophies to one of the teams he detests most of all. Who Dat? Dat’s Who!