Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints preview, live stream, odds

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints meet in Week 13 with the NFC South on the line. Can the Panthers take control of the division?

In 2014, the NFC South was the laughing stock of the NFL. The Carolina Panthers backed into the playoffs as the division winner with a losing record of 7-8-1. It had pundits and gasbags on TV, the internet, and in print calling for a restructuring of the playoffs to keep this atrocity from happening again. Cut to 2017, and the NFC South is the best division in football. New Orleans, Carolina, and Atlanta could all plausibly get into the playoffs. Their finishing order is still very much in doubt headed into Week 13.

The Panthers and Saints game on Sunday will go a long way to answering the questions of the NFC South. The Saints won the first meeting in Week 3 34-13. Cam Newton melted down. He threw three interceptions. Newton completed 17-of-26 for 167 yards and no touchdowns. He did run for the Panthers only touchdown. He also fumbled twice but didn’t lose them. Drew Brees completed 22-of-29 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns. He had a quarterback rating of 131.4 to Newton’s 43.8.

That win was the beginning of an eight-game winning streak for the Saints that propelled them to the top of the division. However, the Panthers quietly (or as quietly as you can with Cam Newton as your quarterback) won six of their next eight games including a current four-game winning streak.

A Panthers win erases the Saints head-to-head tiebreaker and puts the Panthers a game ahead. The tiebreaker after head-to-head is record in the division. The Panthers are currently a game back in the loss column in that category.

Here’s how you can watch Sunday’s Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints game:

Date: Sunday, Dec. 3
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Venue: Madison Square Garden
Live Stream: FoxSportsGo

Next: Time for North Carolina/NC State Rivalry Trophy?

The Saints are favored by 4.5 points. The game opened at three at some books and was bet up almost immediately. The total is 48 points. The Panthers have been better on the road (5-1) than they have at home. Newton is nursing a sore thumb and is questionable. I don’t think there’s any way he misses this game with what he has played through the last few years.

Carolina has the easiest schedule the rest of the way of the three at the top of the division. New Orleans and Atlanta still have to play each other twice. The Panthers have three home games and then go to Atlanta to end the season. If they win this one, they are in the driver’s seat, but they are still in a decent position even with a loss. That’s good because this team lives and dies on Cam, and even if he guts it out, it’s hard to bet on a quarterback with a bad thumb on his throwing hand.

Prediction: Saints 27, Panthers 21