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Week 11 2016, New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers O/U

Who: New Orleans Saints (4-5) at Carolina Panthers (3-6)

Where: Bank of America Stadium. Charlotte, North Carolina.

When: Thursday, November 17, 2016. 8:25 p.m. EST

Over/Under: 51.5 at the Bovada Sportsbook

A pair of NFC South teams searching for answers look to bolster their division title chances Thursday night when the Carolina Panthers host the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

The reigning NFC champions have been plagued by inconsistency all season, and that was again evident in Carolina’s 20-17 home loss to Kansas City on Sunday. The Panthers looked impressive in the first half, opening a 17-0 lead as Cam Newton ran for a touchdown and threw for another to cap scoring drives that lasted 80 and 87 yards, respectively.

But that offense struggled to get any traction in the second half, highlighted by an empty 20-play drive and two turnovers – one a Newton interception that was returned 42 yards by Eric Berry for a Chiefs touchdown. And at the final gun, Carolina suffered its fourth loss by three or fewer points this season.

New Orleans was thwarted in its bed to get over .500 for the first time this season after absorbing a 25-23 loss to the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos at home on Sunday. The Saints were on the verge of taking a one-point lead with 1:22 to play after Drew Brees and Brandin Cooks hooked up on a 32-yard scoring play, but Will Parks returned a blocked extra point for a two-point defensive conversion that proved to be the losing margin for the Saints.

Like the Panthers, the Saints have been unable to close out opponents – four of their defeats have come by six points or less. New Orleans also hurt itself versus Denver with a season-high four turnovers and an inability to get off the field defensively, allowing the Broncos to convert 11 of 19 on third down.

While the Panthers can draw inspiration on their late run to the 2014 division title, winning the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record, the prospects for another such surge seem bleak. Carolina is 0-3 against division rivals this year, including a 41-38 loss in Week 6 at New Orleans. The Panthers rallied from an early 21-0 deficit to forge a 38-all tie with 2:58 to play only to have Wil Lutz drill a 52-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining for the winning points.

Newton Needs to get the Panthers Going Quickly

in the first meeting between the teams, Newton got off to a slow start and the Panthers were down 21-0 just over 16 minutes into the game. But the Saints have failed to keep Newton in check for any game over the last two years – the star quarterback has thrown for 1,196 yards and 12 touchdowns with only two interceptions in going 3-1 in the last four games versus New Orelans. But Netwon’s scrambling was also a key component of Carolina’s wins in the previous three games, he had 165 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 29 attempts. He had only one other rush besides a one-yard TD sneak.

Saints Must Exploit Mismatches Involving Cooks

Much like almost every other game for the Saints this year, their offense is going to determine if they can leave Carolina victorious. Thus it’s imperative Brees continues to target Cooks. The third-year wideout had the best game of his career in Week 6 against the Panthers with seven catches for 173 yards and a touchdown, and two of his six career 100-yard games have come versus Carolina. New Orleans’ offensive prowess has been well-established this year, but finding places where Crooks can find success could be the difference-maker for the Saints in this game.

Why I’m Taking the OVER on the Panthers vs. Saints

There’s no reason to believe that both of these teams’ defenses have dramatically improved since the back-and-forth Week 6 affair that saw a combined 79 points and 929 total yards with only three combined turnovers. The Saints and Panthers have traded 41-38 victories in the last two meetings, and Brees and Newton have tormented these defenses to the tune of 1,400 yards and 14 TD passes combined in those games. Additionally, the Saints have been competitive in all four of their road contests, going 4-0 against the spread in those games. While the Panthers have hit the under in their last two games, the hedge here is Newton will find enough holes in the Saints’ porous defense to turn this game into a shootout and the rare Thursday night game worth watching. The recommendation to players is to take the over at 51.5 points at the Bovada Sportsbook.

Chris AltrudaThis article was written by Chris Altruda

Chris Altruda has spent more than two decades as a sportswriter, first for ESPN SportsTicker in Jersey City, New Jersey, where he rose to the level of college sports coordinator and was NCAA Men's Basketball Columnist. From there, he moved onto The Associated Press, where Chris started as an editorial assistant in their MegaSports division in the AP's headquarters in New York City before taking on the role of Scores Manager. He most recently served as an editor for nearly 11 years for STATS' editorial department based in Northbrook, Illinois, writing game previews for all US professional and major college sports as well as the English Premier League and international soccer. Currently a freelancer, Chris is still working the international soccer beat and other assorted projects. A native New Yorker and graduate of Marquette University who still refers to them as the Warriors, Chris is now holding out hope the Jets will reach a Super Bowl in his lifetime since the Cubs proved miracles are possible by winning the 2016 World Series. Chris can be found on Twitter at @AlTruda73

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