The last of the four games on Wild Card weekend will take place in the Bayou on Sunday afternoon. There’s no doubt that there is no love lost between the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints, and their affair will likely be the most looked forward to of the first set of games in the 2018 postseason.
Panthers Playoff History
There are a lot of bad things you could say about Cam Newton, but the man is generally a winner. He led Auburn to the National Championship in college, and he’s won three of his five playoff games all time. There haven’t been any Super Bowls yet in Carolina’s history, but Newton is still young enough to make that happen at some point.
This is the Panthers’ second road playoff game since 2005. They were beaten both times by the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.
Saints Playoff History
The Saints haven’t been in the playoffs since 2014, and there was a real question as to whether Drew Brees would ever get back to the postseason. This year was much different, though, and this team looks a lot like the one that won Super Bowl XLIV over Peyton Manning and the Colts.
New Orleans is playing in just its 17th playoff game in its history; the team is 7-9 in its first 16 contests.
The Saints have won their initial playoff game in five of their six postseason appearances since 1992.
Why Carolina Will Win in Wild Card Weekend
When the Panthers have been good this year, they’ve been really, really good. Newton is still a freakish athlete, and between what he can do as a passer and a runner and what Christian McCaffrey can do as a runner or a receiver, there are several sets of eyes that have to be all over the field at any given time.
The Carolina defense has struggled just a bit in these last two games, but let’s remember that those duels were played without the suspended Thomas Davis. He is back in the fold now, and when he and Luke Kuechly are playing at a high level together, the sky is the limit for this defense.
Why New Orleans Will Win in Wild Card Weekend
The Saints just have the feel of a Super Bowl team right now. There’s a reason why they’re the favorites to win the NFC behind only Minnesota.
Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara both exceeded 1,500 scrimmage yards this year, and that takes all the pressure off of the New Orleans passing game. Ted Ginn and Michael Thomas are both incredibly dangerous wide receivers when they get into some space, and with all of the attention that must be paid to the Saints’ ground game with either running back in the backfield, there are going to be plenty of one-on-one opportunities for both blazing wideouts.
But the real key for the Saints is their defense. Marshon Lattimore’s arrival has changed the whole way this unit plays. Lattimore should effectively limit what Devin Funchess can do at the wide receiver spot, and that will leave the other 10 men to worry about Newton and McCaffrey. The defense is why the Saints won both of the first two meetings, and it will have to be the path to success in the Wild Card round of the playoffs as well.
Panthers vs. Saints Prediction
Of the four games in the opening round of the playoffs, we like the Saints more than any other team. They’re being asked to lay a healthy six points on the Wild Card betting odds, but they have beaten the Panthers by double-digits in each of the first two meetings.
Though there’s an old adage that it’s tough to beat the same team three times in the same season, 11 of the 16 squads that have met in a third game after sweeping an opponent in the regular season since 1990 went on to win the playoff game, too.
New Orleans will be the next to add its name to this list of three-game season sweeps.
Panthers vs. Saints Pick: New Orleans 38, Carolina 17
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