Panthers vs. Saints NFL Week 17 Best Bets and Odds Analysis

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Ian Book #16 of the New Orleans Saints. Chris Graythen/Getty Images/AFP

Two teams going nowhere, one already eliminated and the other soon-to-be eliminated, collide in an NFC South tilt in Week 17 as the Carolina Panthers take on the New Orleans Saints. How much attention will this game register is debatable when the weekend is jampacked with meaningful games that have serious playoff implications.

Nevertheless, it presents a betting opportunity that’s worth taking a closer look at. So, with that in mind, we preview this game and serve up choice NFL picks.

Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints

Sunday, January 2, 2022, 4:25 PM EST at Caesars Superdome

Panthers Crushed in Fifth Straight Loss

Online sports betting markets wrote off the Panthers even before their date with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got underway in Week 16. Oddsmakers closed Carolina at +11 in point spread betting markets. Tale told the spread wasn’t big enough as the Panthers were decimated by the defending Super Bowl champions 32-6.

The Panthers' offense was wonky, wobbly, and wholly out of sync. Considering Matt Rhule’s strategy run the quarterback carousel with both Sam Darnold and Cam Newton getting action, it’s not surprising the offense failed to launch.

Tom Brady dissected the Panthers' defense with relative ease and finished the day with 232 yards passing, 11 yards rushing, and a touchdown. Wide receiver Antonio Brown, who missed almost two months of action due to a combination of injury and suspension, finished with 102 yards receiving. While the ground game had a field day, plowing through Carolina’s defense like a bowling ball knocking down pins on the way to 159 yards and two scores.

Depleted Saints Embarrassed

The Saints were decimated by Covid-19 and injuries ahead of Week 16. The Miami Dolphins finished them off in a 20-3 rout at the Caesars Superdome. The playing field wasn’t level, to begin with, as the Saints were without at least 20 players and several coaches due to Covid-19.

However, the NFL went ahead with the game and the result means that the Saints are likely out of the playoffs. To be fair, the product that Sean Payton fielded on Monday Night Football has no business going to the playoffs.

The Saints closed as the field-goal underdogs on the NFL odds board, but the game wasn’t even that close. The Saints were down to fourth-string quarterback Ian Book, who was making his NFL debut in primetime football.

Book was woefully underprepared, having only learned of his start a few days before the game, and that was nowhere more so evident than in his second pass of the game which was an interception. He finished the night with two interceptions, no touchdowns, and a paltry 135 yards in offense.

Other stats further highlight Book’s lack of readiness. For instance, he was sacked eight times for a loss of 54 yards in total; the offense was 0-12 on third down and 1-3 on fourth down conversions; and overall, the offense mustered up 164 total yards.

The defense played its heart out, but with the offense’s inefficiency and penalties mounting (seven for 62 yards lost), it was an impossible situation.

NFL Picks and Predictions

The Panthers beat the Saints 26-7 in Week 2 – a meeting that must seem like a lifetime ago. A lot has changed for both camps since then and none of it has been good or encouraging. Darnold was the starting quarterback in that win, but he’s since fallen out of favor with the Panthers coaching staff.

What Rhule decides to do at the quarterback position in this game is anybody’s guess. Although up to this point he’s been moving back and forth between quarterbacks in a game. Payton’s quarterback decision will be more interesting.

Does he give Ian Book a second chance? Does he lean on Blake Bortles, who was signed as a backup to Book a few days before Week 16? Or will he have Taysom Hill back after he was placed on the reserve/covid-19 list prior to Sunday’s game with the Dolphins? Nothing is clear right now.

And yet, oddsmakers have pegged this game on a touchdown line with the Saints to the good. In other words, the markets are saying that a depleted Saints team, which is possibly down to a fourth-string quarterback for a second-straight week, is seven points better than the Panthers. That’s quite the statement if ever there was one.

All told, it’s impossible to bet this game on the point spread – or the money line odds, for that matter – with any confidence. As such, it might be best to avoid those markets altogether until closer to game time when the injury reports are filed and the starting lineups are known.

This leaves the game total for this early betting pick preview. And with the offensive challenges on both sides of the coin, the under comes across as the smart bet for your best bets.

NFL Pick: Under 39.5 (-108) with Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)

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Under 39.5 (-108)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.