Week 9 Thursday Picks – Halfway Done with the NFL

Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints

Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com

Jim Armstrong

First off, congratulations to the San Francisco Giants, who just captured their 3rd world series in five seasons (for those living under a rock), beating the Kansas City Royals 3-2 in Game 7. I’ll readily admit that I am not the most ardent baseball fan, but any sports fan can appreciate the tense moments in the final innings of Game 7. Great stuff and incredible to think that the Giants have won three times this decade yet made only one World Series appearance (’02) when Barry Bonds donned the Giants jersey.

Moving on…in tonight’s match-up the Saints travel to Charlotte to play their division rival Carolina Panthers. Both teams have been scuffling this year, with Carolina holding the edge in the division standings due to their one tie against Cincinnati in week 6 (37-37 – highest scoring tie in league history). The Saints absolutely eviscerated the Packers last week, winning 44-23 and looked like the team most experts expected them to be this year. The Saints however are just a different team at the Dome in New Orleans.

All four of the Saints losses this season have come while on the road, albeit three of the four losses were decided by a field goal or less. Instead of staring at a 3-4 record, the Saints could (and likely should) be at least 5-2 and leading this division. Alas, the Saints travel to Charlotte seeking their first road victory of the season, only a couple days shy of November.

With Carolina coming off a crushing, last second loss to a hungry Seahawks team, I expect them to come out focused and ready to defend their slight lead for division supremacy. The issue is that the Panthers’ defense ranks #28 in total defense, #22 against the pass and #31 against the rush. Bottom line: Carolina’s defense is one of the worst in the league.

The Saints’ defense isn’t much better (#18 overall) but I expect that with a healthy Mark Ingram and Jimmy Graham, that Drew Brees will have his requisite weaponry to fend off the pesky Panthers and re-gain supremacy of the NFC South after a rocky first half of the season. The Saints have too much talent on both sides of the ball to start the season with five consecutive road losses.

Saints win 31-17.


Rory Goulding

Let’s talk about Drew Christopher Brees.1

It doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist that the NFL concept of “as your starting quarterback goes so goes the team”, but that effect is exaggerated in regards to Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

A perfect example came just two weeks ago, the Saints’ Week 6 matchup on the road in Detroit against the Lions. With New Orleans up 23-17 with just under 3 ½ minutes left in the game, Brees was picked off in his own redzone on a terrible 3rd down pass – his 6th consecutive road game with an interception. The Saints would go on to lose 24-23 on a Joique Bell touchdown scored following that interception. Brees has thrown at least one interception in eight of his last 10 road games, which falls under the category of “not good”.

However, the problem isn’t just that Brees is throwing more interceptions on the road; he’s actually scoring less, too. You’d have to go back to Week 16 of the 2012 NFL season to find a road game where Drew Brees, the touchdown machine, threw more than two. That’s 2 TDs or less in 12 consecutive road games – and the Saints are 3-9 on the road since 2012. For comparison: over that same time span, Brees has thrown 3 or more TDs in 8 of his 12 home games.2 The guy just can’t get things going on the road the same way the he does in the Super Dome, and that’s become an issue for the Saints.

By the way, in Brees’ last two games at Carolina (both losses) he’s only thrown two touchdowns against four INTs. On the road, on a short week, I think the Saints are handed their 8th straight road loss.

Carolina 20, Saints 14.


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