Panthers vs Saints Week 18 Picks and Predictions: Back Carolina and the Line Movement

Ever since Steve Wilks became head coach, Carolina has looked like an entirely different team. Despite getting their playoff hopes gashed last week, find out why the Panthers should still have the edge against the Saints on Sunday.

Last Updated: Jan 8, 2023 8:27 AM ET Read Time: 4 min
Sam Darnold Carolina Panthers NFL
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All things considered, the Carolina Panthers (6-10) should see this season as a success. They finally got rid of Matt Rhule and saw impressive play from their young core, winning four of six games prior to losing last week's season-ending game against the Buccaneers.

Unfortunately for the New Orleans Saints (7-9), they had their season end with the result of that same game. But unlike the Panthers, they should be less likely to hold their head high, as their first year under Dennis Allen certainly did not go as planned.

Nevertheless, both NFC South teams will look to end their season on a high note in hopes of carrying that momentum into the offseason, during which they will look to reshape their team and the future of their organization.

Continue reading for our free NFL picks and predictions for Panthers vs. Saints below.

Panthers vs Saints best odds

Panthers vs Saints picks and predictions

The final week of the NFL season is always a crapshoot, with varying levels of motivation driving each team. For both the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints, there is no playoff-oriented motivation after the Panthers' crucial loss last week to the Buccaneers.

However, there's an entirely different angle from which this matchup can be viewed. The Carolina Panthers have clearly rallied around interim head coach Steve Wilks, winning four of six games prior to last week's deflating loss. Since the switch back to Sam Darnold in Week 12, the offense has averaged 26 points per game — a mark the team failed to eclipse even just once prior to that. And this, of course, all came after trading away their biggest impact player in Christian McCaffrey at the deadline.

On defense, both Shaq Thompson and Derrick Brown have publicly backed Wilks to become the full-time head coach following this season, and Brown doubled down on that sentiment this week:

Not much of the same can be said about first-year head coach Dennis Allen. Much of his first season on his own was very Rhule-esque, between strangely leaving Jameis Winston for dead in favor of Andy Dalton or the complete misuse of Alvin Kamara in favor of Mark Ingram and David Johnson — two backs who are a shell of themselves.

Fans have been incredibly unhappy with Allen's performance, leading to mid-season petitions to have the coach fired and louder cries for his job after their late-season loss to the Buccaneers. And quite frankly, there has been radio silence from players when it comes to backing Allen.

For every other week of the season, the vast majority of matchups can be boiled down to talent, performances, and stylistic nuances. But in Week 18, a lot of that can be thrown out of the window in favor of sentiment. For the Panthers, they arguably have the edge in both departments and to be underdogs is insulting.

My best bet: Panthers moneyline (+160 at bet365)

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Panthers vs Saints spread analysis

The Panthers opened as 5-point underdogs but have since moved to a juiced +3.5, suggesting a possible further move down to +3.

Carolina is an even 8-8 against the spread this year but have covered in seven of their last 10 games. The Panthers are 6-1 ATS in games as underdogs of four points or less and have won straight up in five of those contests. In divisional games, Carolina has gone 4-1 ATS.

The Saints are 7-9 ATS this year, tied for the eighth-worst cover rate in the league. They have covered in two straight and in four of their last six. Against the rest of the NFC South, New Orleans has gone 1-4 ATS.

To the Saints' credit, they rank 19th in overall DVOA on the season to the Panthers' 27th. However, Carolina ranks 23rd in weighted DVOA, which de-emphasizes early-season results and aims to be a better measure of current play.

Panthers vs Saints Over/Under analysis

The total opened at 39.5 and has since moved up to 42 at most shops.

The Panthers are an even 8-8 to the O/U, but they have gone 4-0 to the Over in their last four games and have done so by an average of 10.6 points during that time. On totals of 42 or higher, Carolina has gone 4-2 to the Over, and they have the same record as road underdogs.

New Orleans has gone 10-6 to the Under, tied for the tenth-best rate in the league. They have gone Under the total in five straight and in eight of their last nine. They have also gone Under in five straight games with an O/U of 42 or more.

The Saints rank 21st in offensive time of possession per drive, and Carolina ranks 28th. If either offense struggles to maintain drives early, the Under may come into play, considering the waning amount of motivation that will come as the game gets into the later stages.

In their Week 3 matchup, they played to a combined 36 points on a 40.5 total. New Orleans has also played 4-1 to the Under in divisional matchups, with just one of those games (Week 1 against Atlanta) surpassing 40 combined points.

Panthers vs Saints betting trend to know

Carolina is 6-1 ATS and 5-2 straight up as an underdog of four points or less. New Orleans is 0-3 as a favorite of a field goal or more. Find more NFL betting trends for Panthers vs. Saints.

Panthers vs Saints game info

Location: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Date: Sunday, January 8, 2023
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET
Opening odds: Saints -5, 39.5

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