Market WatchI'm a bit surprised at how much respect the Saints are getting in this point spread. In the LVH look-ahead, the Panthers were only -2.5 point favorites. When the line re-opened, it was -3. I fully expected this line to move to -3.5 at some point, but we can still get -3 (with a bit extra juice) at every shop out there.
60% of the bets are coming in on the Panthers.
Bottom LineI wasn't involved when these teams played in New Orleans not too long ago, but I wasn't surprised that the Saints took care of business. They are right up there with the Seahawks as having the best home field advantage in the league. Their defensive line already had an edge going into that one, and it becomes amplified with the dome crowd and a lead.
Things are much different for Drew Brees and company on the road. Last week, they were touchdown favorites in St Louis, but couldn't even win the game. It's not the first bad loss on the road for New Orleans, and it's a trend that dates back before this season.
Another problem for Brees will be the situation at left tackle. Untested rookie Terron Armstead will get the start and has the luxury of going up against Greg Hardy in a hostile environment. You can be sure that Sean Payton will be providing help on that side and also be looking to get the ball out quicker to avoid this fearsome pass rush. Another effect of this is the benefit on the other side to Charles Johnson. He won't have to worry too much about double coverage, as he gets to face off one on one with Zach Strief.
There is no real glaring weakness with the rest of the Panthers defense. New Orleans will have to earn their points the hard way. Even though Jimmy Graham had two touchdowns in their last meeting, he didn't go off in the yardage department.
When Carolina have the ball, they can take solace in the fact that New Orleans isn't that great against the run. The other weakness comes in the red zone. Despite the improvement we've seen from this unit in 2013, they are still a bit soft inside their own 20. Meanwhile, the Panthers rank near the top of the league in every "make-or-break" category on both sides of the ball.
After you factor in a couple of key advantages for Carolina, along with home field advantage, and the Saints road disadvantage, I think there is value on -3. If I was setting this line it would be -3.5 at minimum, and probably closer to -4.
NFL Pick: CAR -3.