The New Orleans Saints visit the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in NFL Week 11 on Thursday Night Football. This game is a must win game for both teams. Both New Orleans and Carolina are currently on the outside looking in when it comes to making the playoffs in the NFC.
For the Saints, they need to shake off the disappointment of losing a heartbreaker at home to the Denver Broncos. New Orleans should have won the game, instead they ended up losing 25-23 on a blocked extra point.
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On the other sideline, the Panthers need to bounce back after blowing a 17-3 lead against the Chiefs at home last week. Carolina was dominant at home last season, but that hasn’t been the case this season with home losses to the Vikings, Buccaneers and Chiefs.
The winner of this game will stay alive in the NFC playoff race. The loser might want to start thinking about next year and improving their draft position.
Here three keys to victory for each team.
Saints Keys to Victory
1. Get Consistent Pressure on Cam Newton: The Saints have to get consistent pressure on Cam Newton, but they must also keep him in the pocket. They cannot allow Newton to break contain and extend plays. Newton has struggled when throwing on the run this season, evident in the interception he threw to Eric Berry last week. But I still wouldn’t take any chances if I were the Saints.
2. Push the Ball Vertically: New Orleans needs to attack Carolina’s young secondary early and often. Look for Drew Brees to come out throwing as the Saints will look to take the early lead and put the pressure on Newton and the Panthers offense.
3. Offensive Line Must Hold Up Inside: The strength of the Panthers defense is defensive tackles Kawaan Short and Star Lotulelei and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. They wreak havoc on opposing back fields. The Saints must get a hat on them on a consistent basis. They cannot allow any of them to get penetration and disrupt the timing of the offense. If they do, the Saints will be in a for a long night.
Panthers Keys Victory
1. Ground and Pound: The Panthers need to be more balanced on offense. Look for offensive coordinator Mike Shula to run the football more and set up the play-action passing game early. They need to make more big plays down the field and the best way to do that is by throwing the football.
2. Protect the Football: Turnovers cost the Panthers the game last week. Cam Newton and company must do a better job of protecting the football. Carolina is 29th in the league in takeaways and giveaways at a -7. That’s putrid and has to be fixed if they want to beat the Saints.
3. Get Consistent Pressure on Brees: Carolina has to get consistent pressure on Drew Brees. They cannot allow him to get comfortable in the pocket and have time to throw the ball downfield. The Panthers need to get after the quarterback and throw him off of his spot.
Point Spread: Carolina -3.5 Moneyline: Carolina -175, New Orleans +155 Over/Under: 52.5
The Panthers are better at home than they’ve played this season. They have to be better, right? There is too much talent on the Carolina roster for them to be as bad as they’ve been. The combination of facing a porous defense and playing at home should be enough to put them over the top. I like the Panthers in a close game.
Pick: New Orleans Saints: 20, Carolina Panthers: 24